Bennet, Colleagues Introduce Family Act, Urge Congress to Pass Permanent Paid Leave Solution to Spur Economic Recovery

Permanent, National Paid Leave Program Would Put Money Back Into the Pockets of Working Families and the Economy

Washington, D.C. – Today, on the 28th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and a group of his colleagues introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act 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 the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (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 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. 

“It is unacceptable that in the United States of America, we do not guarantee paid leave for our workers,” said Bennet. “No one should have to choose between their family's health and their paycheck. The Senate must pass the FAMILY Act to guarantee paid leave, support working families and small businesses, and strengthen our economy.”

“It is a national disgrace that our federal government does not guarantee paid family and medical leave for the American people. The COVID-19 Pandemic has revealed that far too many essential and low-wage workers are faced with choosing between their safety and family obligations vs. putting food on the table. It is no coincidence that these workers are disproportionately black & other people of color and women.  The lack of paid family leave is a crisis in the United States and is a racial injustice issue, that must be addressed and recognized as a life or death issue. Now is the time for Congress to immediately pass the FAMILY Act to save lives and begin rebuilding an economy that works for all Americans,” said Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convenor, Black Women's Roundtable.

“I’ve had surgery twice for lung cancer,” said Permelia Toney-Boss, member of the Voices of Workers. “I needed care from my adult daughter, but the first time she had no paid leave and could take only a day here and there. The second time, she was able to use New Jersey’s paid leave law. Having someone who really knows you take care of you makes a big difference. I know I healed faster because she was there. People who are dealing with COVID-19 need the same support. We need paid leave for all that allows us to heal and care for loved ones--no matter where we live, where we work, or who we love.”

“Nearly a year into a devastating pandemic and recession, we need the FAMILY Act more than ever,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “92 percent of workers who earn low wages—who are disproportionately Black and Brown—have no access to paid family leave. When a baby is born or illness strikes, families are forced to make impossible choices between their economic security and the needs of their loved ones.”

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 at full pay, and up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave to care for family members at two-thirds pay, 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 addition to Bennet, this legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Angus King (I-Maine), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), and Alex Padilla (D-Calif.).

The bill text is available HERE.

This legislation has been endorsed by 89 national organizations including Paid Leave for All, National Partnership for Women and Families, PL+US, NAACP, Black Woman’s Roundtable, SEIU, CWU, National Woman’s Law Center, National Hispanic Council, Moms Rising, FAMILY Values @ Work, CLASP, HRC, American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority.