After last week’s fateful trip to the White House, Ellen Bravo, Executive Director of Family Values At Work reached out to me.
Ellen reminded me that the White House Working Dads Summit wasn’t just a photo-op or a cheerleading session for fatherhood but its real purpose was to bring attention to a new policy idea that the Obama Administration is trying to push through the Department of Labor to help fund parental leave programs on a state level.
Thanks, Ellen, for being a leader in this!
Below is what Ellen wrote to me, which frankly, I think says it very clearly. PLEASE share this with other moms, dads and parenting groups out there. You can GET INVOLVED through Ellen’s wonderful organization by going here. The government can’t do it without us.
“I was glad to hear Department of Labor’s Secretary Perez call on each of us to do what we can to build the movement for new policies. One immediate action you could take to help ensure fathers can afford to take time with a newborn or newly adopted child is to call attention to the State Paid Leave Fund that Sec. Perez mentioned. This is $5 million included in the Department of Labor budget to create competitive grants for states that want to start a family leave insurance program and need some help with start-up costs. It’s being discussed right now in appropriations. Because the money is included in the DOL budget, it requires no new funds. It should get support from both sides of the aisle – and can, if legislators hear from constituents that it’s something they want. Alas, many people don’t know anything about it.
The State Paid Leave Fund, which would create a competitive federal grant to spur innovation among states interested in developing a family and medical leave insurance program, could help millions of families across the country maintain economic security.
Right now, too many dads are forced to choose between what being there for their kids and providing for them.
Family and medical leave insurance programs at the state level allow workers to pay a small portion of their wages each week for the guarantee that when they need it, they can receive a percentage of their wages while they have to take extended family or medical leave from work.
In states (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island) that currently have FMLI programs, we have already seen the benefits: increased family financial stability and improved child well-being, better workforce outcomes for new parents, reductions in government public assistance expenditures, and cost-savings for businesses.
For a relatively small sum, the federal government can help remove the main roadblock to this self-sustaining program — start-up cost.
Need for a State Paid Leave Fund:
The State Paid Leave Fund has the potential to help millions of American families across the country maintain economic security, if it is funded at $5 million for Fiscal Year 2015 as the U.S. Department of Labor has requested. This fund would create a competitive federal grant fund designed to spur innovation among states interested in creating family and medical leave insurance (FMLI) programs. In the case of the State Paid Leave Fund, a modest investment at the federal level would translate to significant impact for millions of families’ economic security.
Current Programs Inadequate:
At some point in their working lives, almost all Americans will need to take time off to care for a new baby or adopted child, an ailing child or parent, or their own health. The Family and Medical Leave Act – the only federal law designed to help working people meet the dual demands of job and family – leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford to take. And only 12 percent of the U.S. workers currently have access to paid family leave through their employers. That means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents are forced to choose between what is best for them and their families and income they need to cover basic expenses.
Success of State Family and Medical Leave Insurance Programs
Family and medical leave insurance programs at the state level allow workers to pay a small portion of their wages each week for the guarantee that when they need it, they can receive a percentage of their wages while they have to take extended family or medical leave from work. These programs help working families stay afloat when they need time off to care for an ill family member, a new baby or their own health.
Three states – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – have created family and medical leave insurance programs. Research has shown that paid leave programs contribute to increased family financial stability and improved child well-being, better workforce outcomes for new parents, reductions in government public assistance expenditures, and cost-savings for businesses. California employers report that the program has had a neutral or positive effect on employee productivity, profitability, and turnover, and most employers coordinate their own benefits with the state’s PFL program. A recent Rutgers study shows that New Jersey’s FMLI program has saved businesses money by improving employee retention, decreasing turnover costs, and improving productivity.
Utility of the Fund:
A federal grant program would help states with one-time start-up costs to develop and implement successful family and medical leave insurance programs that are so needed across the country. Once these insurance programs are up and running, they become self-sustaining. Without this federal support, the initial capital needed to design and launch these programs often acts as a roadblock, despite broad public support. States with established FMLI programs could apply for grants to increase awareness about and utilization of the program by conducting outreach to ensure eligible workers who have been paying into the program are accessing it when they need it.”