A U.S. family leave plan that pays for itself

Proposals to have the federal government help new parents take paid leave from their employment have generally come with serious disadvantages. If the government makes companies eat the cost, it might also make them less willing to promote or hire women of child-bearing age. If the government instead makes taxpayers as a whole pay for leave, then it penalizes families that have chosen to have one parent stay out of the paid labor force to take care of children. This seems especially unfair since those families have lower average incomes than two-earner families. A new proposal on paid leave, however, avoids these pitfalls. It would instead let new parents finance time off from their jobs by slightly delaying the time at which they would collect Social Security benefits. Kristin Shapiro, a lawyer in Washington, explained the idea in a recent paper for the Independent Women's Forum. She estimates that new parents could finance 12 weeks of leave in return for a six-week delay in taking Social Security checks. While the Trump administration and Republican senators have expressed interest in the idea, it has already drawn some criticism from the left and the right. None of their arguments seem compelling. On the left, the critique is that the plan "would penalize the elderly for their decision to have raised families," and penalize them even more if they had large families. It wouldn't. The plan wouldn't force anyone to participate; it would just give them the option to collect an existing government benefit now or later. Having more children would not lower (or raise) anyone's total Social Security benefits. There's a case that fiscal policy should treat parents better, and I've made it. If we want to go down that route, we should do it by providing additional tax relief for parents, which they could use to finance leave from work, or other things. But wanting additional pro-parent policies is not a good reason to object to the Shapiro proposal. The criticism of the Continue Reading

Andrew Cuomo’s paid family leave plan only covers 35% of person’s salary in first year

ALBANY — Gov. Cuomo's push for a state 12-week paid family leave law would only cover 35% of a person’s salary in the first year. Cuomo, appearing on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show”, said it will take time to build up the payroll contribution fund so employees could be paid more. According to Cuomo’s bill, the family leave law if passed would kick in on Jan. 1, 2018. In the first year, a person taking leave to spend time with a new child or help with a sick or dying relative would be eligible for just 35% of their pay each week. That would increase before maxing out at 50% in 2021, the bill says. ACTIVISTS FOR WOMEN URGE NEW YORK STATE TO APPROVE PAID FAMILY LEAVE LAW Cuomo called passage of the law is a priority this year, though he acknowledged “a lot of opposition to it from many fronts.” That includes the state Business Council, whose president, Heather Briccetti, fears it would put additional strains on small businesses. State Senate Republicans have also traditionally opposed the idea. New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman, who has lobbied for passage of family leave legislation, hailed Cuomo's inclusion of the measure in his budget plan, but expressed concern that the proposed benefit was too small. Lieberman said the benefit needs to be closer to 75% of an employee's average salary rather than the 35% to 50% called for in Cuomo's bill. Still, she added: "The most important point is that the governor made an unequivocal and quite eloquent statement of principal that people need financial support to take time off to care for family." Cuomo unveiled the proposal on Wednesday in his State of the State address. In doing so, he expressed remorse he did not spend more time at the end with his dying father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. The governor on Thursday told Lehrer that there are many people right now who either can’t Continue Reading

Joe Biden and Gov. Cuomo push for mandatory paid family leave in N.Y.

Vice President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo got together Friday to make a push for mandatory paid family leave in the Empire State. The two lawmakers kicked off the “Strong Families, Strong New York” campaign in Manhattan alongside some 500 parents, caregivers workers and community members. Cuomo wants New York to enact a 12-week mandatory paid family leave policy for anyone who needs to care for a newborn or a seriously ill relative. CUOMO'S PAID FAMILY LEAVE PLAN ONLY COVERS 35% OF PERSON'S SALARY If passed into law, the policy would be the most generous in the nation — and set a standard Cuomo hopes others will follow. “There are times in life when family comes first — like when a child is born, a loved one is sick, or a parent is dying — and I believe everyone deserves the right to be there in those times,” said Governor Cuomo. ACTIVISTS URGE NY STATE TO APPROVE PAID FAMILY LEAVE He also said that his own family traumas — including the death of his father Mario Cuomo — influenced his policy-making decisions. “That is the time you need to be there just to hold a hand; just to dry a tear,” he said of his father’s death last January. “You should have that option in life and you shouldn't have to choose between losing your job and being a decent human being,” he said. His remarks got a long round of applause from the audience but also from Vice President Biden, who hailed Cuomo as a true progressive. “When we speak about the middle class, it's not a number in America; it's a value system,” Biden said. “It’s not about a particular income, it’s about being able to care for your family. It’s about being able to look them in the eye and say, ‘honey, it's going to be okay.’” Currently the U.S. offers 12 weeks of unpaid Continue Reading

Democrats seek paid-family leave, higher taxes on rich

ALBANY -- A bill to provide 12 weeks of paid-family leave to New Yorkers was passed Tuesday by the state Assembly, which also introduced a measure to increase taxes on the rich and lower them for the middle class.The Democratic-led chamber passed the measure that would grant workers up to two-thirds of their pay, up to the state's average weekly wage, to care for a sick loved one or a newborn child for 12 weeks."The fear of losing a job should never stand in the way of caring for a sick family member, a parent, spouse or child, but these are the kind of difficult choices that some New Yorkers are forced to make every day," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx, said at a Capitol news conference.The bill is broader than the one proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who on Friday joined Vice President Joe Biden to push for a 12-week, paid-family leave -- which would be the most expansive program in the nation.The Assembly's plan would be funded through the New York State’s Temporary Disability Insurance so workers could get a portion of their wages.Cuomo's proposal would start in January 2018 and provide a wage of 35 percent of a worker's salary up to average state wage; the state’s average wage is currently $1,266 a week, according to the governor’s office. It would grow to 50 percent in 2021.Workers would be docked 60 cents from their weekly pay check under Cuomo's plan; it would be 45 cents under the Assembly plan.Asked about businesses' concerned about the program, Heastie responded, "They need to have a heart."Assembly Democrats also said they want to increase revenue to the state's coffers by $1 billion a year by increasing taxes on the rich and offering a small cut to households earning less than $150,000 a year in taxable income.Democrats have been trying to increase taxes on the rich, but have faced opposition from Republicans who control the Senate. The last time the sides agreed to income-tax changes was in 2011, when they kept Continue Reading

Point-Counter Point: Paid family leave?

A bill to provide 12 weeks of paid-family leave to New Yorkers was passed Tuesday by the state Assembly. The measure would grant workers up to two-thirds of their pay, up to the state's average weekly wage — currently $1, 266 a week — to care for a sick loved one or a newborn child for 12 weeks.The bill is broader than the one proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and would be funded through the New York State’s Temporary Disability Insurance so workers could get a portion of their wages.Cuomo's proposal, supported by Vice President Joe Biden, would start in January 2018 and provide a wage of 35 percent of a worker's salary up to average state wage. It would grow to 50 percent in 2021.Workers would be docked 60 cents from their weekly pay check under Cuomo's plan; it would be 45 cents under the Assembly plan.We talked to Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, who has sponsored paid-family leave in the Senate, and urged his colleagues to back the governor's plan, and to Mike Durant, State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, for their views: Sen. Jeff KleinAcross New York State, workers must make hard choices when welcoming a newborn or when a loved one falls ill in the absence of Paid Family Leave, a proposal I’ve long championed in the Senate.New Jersey, Rhode Island and California already implemented paid family leave programs that have had no negative impact on businesses and have created a more positive workforce. The policy doesn’t cost businesses a cent and is funded through employee contributions which are as low as 27 cents a week. Mike DurantGov. Cuomo’s push to mandate paid leave is flawed on several fronts. First, the unprecedented proposed leave time of 12 weeks is substantially longer than the six offered in California and New Jersey or four weeks in Rhode Island.Second, is the false narrative that employers won’t face a financial hit. Most small businesses operate on Continue Reading

NJ paid family leave: How to claim it and how the program might be improved

 TRENTON - Democratic lawmakers want to expand the state's family leave law, saying it's underused and should provide greater compensation, but their move to do so adds to a growing list of progressive agenda items that may have to wait until Republican Gov. Chris Christie leaves office in January. More: NJ Democrats waiting for next governor on marijuana legalization More: Christie: Flynn wouldn't be allowed in White House if I were president More: Christie says he ordered State House renovation borrowing Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, D-Hudson, said Tuesday that he wants to change the 2009 law's maximum number of leave weeks from 6 to 12, allow for benefits for bonding with a newborn or an adopted child, and boost the cap on weekly benefits from $633 to $932 per week.But Prieto's plan differs from a proposal offered by Senate Democrats a month ago – and neither is likely to win support from Christie or backing from the state's business community. THE RULES: Your guide to NJ Family Leave InsurancePrieto recently announced that he'll vie to hold his Assembly leadership position for a third two-year term. Lawmakers will make the choice after the November elections, in which all 120 seats are on the ballot and Democrats are favored to retain control of both houses of the Legislature.Prieto is expected to be challenged by Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, though Coughlin hasn't formally announced that he's running for speaker.The choice should come down to who's better at promoting progressive values, Prieto said."I put my record where it is ... things like we're seeing here today,'' he said. "We've made the Assembly relevant again.''Prieto made the comments during and after a State House news conference, where he was joined by Dena Mottola Jaborska from New Jersey Citizen Action and other leaders of advocacy groups. More: Christie's ex-bank board pick scammed bank during nomination More: Next Continue Reading

Cuomo seeks 12 weeks of paid family leave

ALBANY – New Yorkers would see a 60-cent deduction in their paychecks each week under a proposal to provide up to 12 weeks of paid-family leave to workers.Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking the paid-family leave in his budget plan introduced last week, saying workers should be entitled to a portion of their pay if they leave work to care for a newborn or a sick loved one.“At the end of the day, family matters,” Cuomo said in his State of the State address Jan. 13. “Intimate relationships matter. And in this 24/7 world, let this state make a statement of what is really important, and those relationships are important.”Democrats in the state Legislature have supported various versions of a 12-week paid family leave, but the measures have stalled in the Republican-led Senate.Still, Republicans seemed open to a renewed effort to get an agreement this year. The state’s new fiscal year starts April 1.“We will definitely have discussions over paid-family leave,” Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County, told reporters earlier this month.Cuomo’s proposal would charge private-sector workers 60 cents a week starting in April to build up a state fund to cover a portion of employees’ salary if they take family leave. It would not be a cost on employers, Cuomo’s office said.Workers would be able to take the leave on a yearly basis to care for an infant or newly adopted child or a seriously-ill family member. Public employees would be eligible if their local government opts in, mainly through union contracts.The worker would be eligible starting in January 2018 for 35 percent of their salary; the state’s average wage is currently $1,266 a week, according to the governor’s office.It would rise to 50 percent of the average weekly wage in 2021, and the annual deduction to employees would grow to an estimated $1.09 a week. The program would be the most expansive in the country: Only California, Rhode Island Continue Reading

Sheryl Sandberg to corporate America: Lean in on family leave

SAN FRANCISCO — Sheryl Sandberg is leaning in again.This time she's carving out major positions on public policy issues for women and families. And she's challenging corporate America to take the lead in crafting family-friendly policies such as paid family leave, family sick time and bereavement leave.On Tuesday, Sandberg announced Facebook has extended its bereavement leave to up to 20 days for an immediate family member and up to 10 days for an extended family member. That's double the leave it used to offer. U.S. companies are not required to offer bereavement leave.Facebook is also instituting paid family sick time — three days to care for a family member with a short-term illness, such as a child with the flu, and paid family leave, which allows employees to take up to six weeks of paid leave within a rolling 12-month period to be with an ill family member."People should be able both to work and be there for their families," Sandberg wrote in a Facebook post. "We need public policies that make it easier for people to care for their children and aging parents and for families to mourn and heal after loss."More than half of America's 60 biggest employers offer no paid family leave or will not disclose their family leave policy, according to a study released in November by Paid Leave for the United States.Momentum has been building for paid family leave, which allows employees — both mothers and fathers — to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child or a seriously ill relative for six or more weeks. A federal law has guaranteed workers unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks since 1993. Four states currently offer paid family leave.Bereavement leave is also limited in the U.S. Just six out of 10 private sector workers get paid time off after the death of a loved one, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then only for a few days."Making it easier for more Americans to be the workers Continue Reading

If only the thought counted: Albany’s family-leave push sounds good, but the details leave much to be desired

In what would be a boon for working New Yorkers, state legislators are pushing to make this the fourth state to enact paid family leave. Unfortunately, the leading proposals must be chalked up as non-starters. Federal law entitles most workers to as much as 12 weeks’ unpaid family leave to bond with a newborn child or care for a sick relative. But with no paychecks coming in, low- and middle-income people often must choose between being there for loved ones or paying the rent. Competing bills in the Senate and Assembly would fill that gap. The Senate version — put forward by Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein — would pay up to half of an employee’s wages for as long as six weeks. Workers would chip in through paycheck deductions that would rise to $1 per week, and employers would pay nothing. Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees would be exempt. So far, so good — except those weekly bucks would fall way short of covering the cost. Klein counts on the state to pony up $125 million a year, transforming the benefit from self-sustaining insurance to a taxpayer-subsidized entitlement — while also diverting money from priorities like schools and subways. Another dealbreaker: Klein’s proposed payouts — starting at $425 a week and gradually rising to about $600 — would dwarf benefits paid to workers with extended illnesses. The Temporary Disability Insurance program caps payments at $170 a week, an amount that has not been adjusted for inflation since 1989. That means a husband on family leave would stand to be paid almost three times as much as the sick wife he’s taking care of. A more expansive approach sponsored by Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan would mandate 12 weeks of leave, not six; pay up to two-thirds of weekly wages, not half, and cover businesses of all sizes. Constructively, she would charge the entire bill to Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: New York Senate Republicans back plan for paid family leave

ALBANY — In a surprise move, the state Senate GOP included the creation of a paid family leave program in its budget proposal to be unveiled this week, the Daily News has learned. The plan was included at the urging of a breakaway group of five Senate Democrats who serve in a coalition with the GOP. Federal law already requires that employers give their workers up to 12 weeks of family leave time, but it is unpaid, the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeffrey Klein said. “The majority of working families in New York can’t afford to take one week of unpaid leave, let alone 12,” Klein, who represents the Bronx, told The News. “New Yorkers should never have to choose between what their heart is telling them to do and what their bank account is telling them do.” Under the plan, new parents and those caring for seriously ill relatives would be allowed up to six weeks of paid leave. The program would cover all new mothers and fathers, including gay and straight couples who adopt. An employee could receive up to half of his or her regular salary while on leave, under the plan. The state would cover the total cost — estimated at $125 million — in the first year. Sources say the Republicans agreed to include the measure to appease Klein and his members, who need to show some progressive victories to justify their alliance with the GOP. It’s not expected the Republicans will aggressively push the issue in the budget talks with Gov. Cuomo, leaving that up to Klein. Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland said his house has passed a paid family leave bill in the past and is open to discussing the Klein measure. A spokesman for Cuomo had no immediate comment. Heather Briccetti, president of the New York State Business Council, said her organization is open to the idea of paid family leave but needs to see the details “to ensure that it doesn’t Continue Reading