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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 15, 2019 01:30 PM
From: Representative Wendi Thomas and Rep. Dan L. Miller
To: All House members
Subject: The Family Care Act
In addition to attracting businesses to the state, we must also attract workers. As you may have recently heard, Pennsylvania is losing young people. We need to be the state where people want to come to work. In the near future, we intend to introduce legislation to establish “The Family Care Act,” a statewide Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program.

This important legislation will help attract hard-working Pennsylvanians so they can care for themselves and their families when serious illness strikes or when a parent becomes seriously ill by providing employees the ability to invest small deductions from their weekly earnings into a state-managed fund. Then when they need to take time off, they can retain their job and remain economically stable. As the American workforce changes, so too must work policies evolve to serve a growing and diverse population. Employers should not have to choose between the health of their business and loyalty to their employees. And no employee should ever have to choose between taking care of a sick parent or child or a job. In Pennsylvania, families should come first.

I recently spoke with a small business owner who had faced this issue. Her mother had become very ill, likely facing the end of her life. This business owner struggled to keep her business afloat while she took time to care for her mother. This legislation would have made a difference for her.

Under our proposed legislation, all working individuals would make a small payroll contribution to support the program, which would be administered by the Department of Labor and Industry. Eligible employees would be able to care for themselves in the event of a serious health condition, care for a close family member with a serious health condition, care for an aging parent or a new child, or care for a member of the military in qualifying exigent circumstances. Benefits will be calculated on a graduated scale (using a percentage of the statewide average weekly wage) to ensure the program is accessible to low-wage workers. This will enable workers to utilize the fund when they need it, retain their jobs and return to work, rather than go on unemployment or state entitlement programs.

“The Family Care Act” is a simple, well-tested mechanism. Similar state insurance funds are already in place in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Washington, and Washington D.C. These funds help ensure small businesses can compete with large companies to recruit and retain top-tier talent. State taxpayers will also benefit long term from this program. Data shows that individuals who take paid leave are 39% less likely to report using public assistance in the year following a child’s birth. Yet, currently, only 14% of the U.S. workforce has access to any type of paid family leave, and just 6% of the lowest wage earners receive paid family leave compared to 22% of those in the top sector. Many of our rural Pennsylvania residents are in that lowest quartile of wage earners. While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees unpaid time off to care for a ill family member or new child, most Americans cannot sustain their families for more than two weeks without a paycheck.

Please join us in cosponsoring this important legislation, which will enhance the ability of hard-working Pennsylvanians to take care of their families and their employees.

Introduced as HB1739