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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 18, 2019 02:24 PM
From: Senator Daniel Laughlin and Sen. Maria Collett
To: All Senate members
Subject: Establishing The Family Care Act
In the near future, we intend to introduce legislation to establish “The Family Care Act,” to establish a statewide Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. This important legislation will help hard-working Pennsylvanians care for themselves and their families when serious illness strikes or a new child enters their lives by providing employees the ability to invest small deductions from their weekly earnings into a state managed fund so that 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 child or an aging parent or a job. In Pennsylvania, families should come first.

In 2018, the Swain family of Montgomery County was struck with the news that their infant daughter Emersyn had a congenital heart defect. These hardworking parents struggled to make ends meet without access to paid family and medical leave while spending months on end at the hospital with Emersyn before her tragic and untimely passing. In Emersyn’s honor, they have been committed to advocating for paid family and medical leave so that other families can spend time caring for their loved ones without the added stressors of financial hardship and fear of job loss.

Under the proposed legislation, all working individuals would make a small payroll contribution to support the program, which would be administered by the Department of Labor & 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 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 new child or ill family member, those who work for small businesses are not covered by FMLA, and most Americans cannot sustain their families for more than two weeks without a paycheck.

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

Introduced as SB580