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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: January 19, 2021 04:19 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 the “The Family Care Act,” legislation that would 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.
Protecting our citizens who experience an illness and affording peace of mind against the economic disaster of lost wages is a shared goal, which became even more apparent as the uncertain course and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic evolved. We need the Family Care Act in Pennsylvania more than ever because workers who are sick or quarantined shouldn’t feel compelled to come to work and possibly put others in the work force at risk of illness. Small employers cannot take on the burden of paying wages for employees confronted with these situations either so a state managed insurance fund like that proposed by the Family Care Act would ease these concerns.
As the American workforce changes, work policies must also 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, 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 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.

Not only for these perilous times but in the challenging times ahead, please join us in sponsoring 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.
Please join us in co-sponsoring this important legislation.

Introduced as SB580