|Posted:||January 21, 2021 04:01 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 reintroduce legislation to establish “The Family Care Act,” a statewide Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, known as HB 1739 last session.
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.
This need became even more apparent as the uncertain course and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic evolved. Sick workers should not feel compelled to come to work and possibly put others in the work force at risk of illness. Small employers should not bear the burden of paying wages for employees confronted with these situations, so a state program like the Family Care Act would ease these concerns.
Even the federal government recognized this problem and passed “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” which requires up to two weeks of paid sick leave if an eligible employee is quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, is caring for an individual subject to quarantine or is caring for a child whose childcare provider or school is closed due to COVID. An additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave is allowed due to the COVID-related closure of a childcare provider or school. While these federal provisions are specific to COVID-19 and are temporary in nature, we should act now to develop our own permanent paid family and medical leave plan for Pennsylvania.
Paid leave clearly resonates with our constituents. 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. Having our own Pennsylvania-specific Family Care Act in place 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, Oregon, Connecticut, Colorado 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 longstanding federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees unpaid time off to care for an 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. We must act to help hard-working Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth take care of their families and their employees as we confront the realization that unexpected and protracted illness can strike anyone at any time. The Family Care Act is the right thing to do – and now is the right time to do it.
Prior Cosponsors: THOMAS, D. MILLER, SOLOMON, BARRAR, ULLMAN, SCHLOSSBERG, A. DAVIS, YOUNGBLOOD, READSHAW, FRANKEL, HILL-EVANS, GALLOWAY, MOUL, RAVENSTAHL, MULLINS, FIEDLER, HOHENSTEIN, KIM, ZABEL, HARKINS, RIGBY, WARREN, KRUEGER, ROEBUCK, DAVIDSON, OTTEN, SHUSTERMAN, KORTZ, SANCHEZ, FRITZ, DALEY, DiGIROLAMO, FARRY, HENNESSEY, McCARTER, CEPHAS, O'MARA, GAINEY, INNAMORATO, DONATUCCI, LEE, DEASY, WILLIAMS, MADDEN, TOOHIL, SIMS, DELLOSO, TOMLINSON, STEPHENS, WHITE and ISAACSON
Introduced as HB1200