The FAMILY Act would create a self-sustaining national family and medical leave insurance fund to provide workers with a portion of their wages for a limited period of time
(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair of the Senate labor committee, along with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT, 3rd) introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, legislation to create a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program.
The FAMILY Act would ensure that every worker, no matter the size of their employer or if they are self-employed or part-time, has access to paid leave for every serious medical event, every time it’s needed. The emergency paid leave provision that partially expired at the end of last year helped to prevent covered workers from having to choose between their paycheck or their health when they needed to stay home, and helped slow the spread of COVID-19 by roughly 15,000 cases per day. However, not only is this provision too narrow, the need for a national paid leave program extends far beyond the pandemic—it is a critical tool for long term economic recovery. The Murray sponsored FAMILY Act is modeled on successful state programs and would create a permanent paid family and medical leave program for all workers that provides up to 66% of wage replacement for 12 weeks, anytime they need it.
“Having been a working parent, I know firsthand what it’s like to have to figure out what to do if you, your kid, or a loved one gets sick when you’ve got to go to work—and I know that challenge has only gotten dramatically worse in a pandemic where it’s absolutely critical workers are able to stay home if needed, without losing their paycheck or their job,” Senator Murray said. “This crisis has made it clearer than ever that ensuring workers have the right to paid leave is critical to public health and to our economy as a whole.”
Throughout the pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses. December job data revealed that the economy suffered a net loss of 140,000 jobs—and each of those jobs lost belonged to a woman. In particular, Black women and Latinas lost their jobs, while White women made significant gains. According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, more than 2 million women have left the U.S. workforce since the pandemic began, with many forced to leave due to family considerations or because they work in some of the hardest hit sectors of our economy. These women, and particularly women of color, are also more likely to be employed in roles that lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home. Without a permanent paid leave solution, more women are at risk of losing their livelihoods, more workers are at risk of getting sick when they can’t stay home, and our economic recovery is at risk of being stalled.
While the Families First Coronavirus Response Act required some employers to provide workers with two weeks of coronavirus-related sick leave, and up to 12 weeks of family leave, it is estimated that up to three-quarters of all workers were excluded from receiving these benefits. The most recent relief package failed to extend the requirement that certain employers must provide this leave. In January, Senator Murray praised the incoming Biden administration for plans that would extend certain paid leave provisions in any further relief packages.
Last year, Senator Murray introduced the PAID Leave Act and repeatedly pushed to include it in previous COVID relief packages. The PAID Leave Act is a comprehensive emergency paid sick days and paid family and medical leave bill—fully funded by the federal government during this emergency—to provide additional support to workers and businesses during the coronavirus outbreak and future public health emergencies.