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Paid Family Leave

The Right Start Act would authorize federal matching funds to states in 2002 for paid family leave programs for the birth or adoption of a child or other family care-giving needs.

February 17, 2000
Related Topics: Miscellaneous Legal Issues
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Bills include: Right Start Act(S.18/H.R.265); Family Income to Respond to Significant Transitions InsuranceAct (H.R.226).

Summary
   In the Senate and House, legislationhas been introduced to provide funds to states to establish paid family leaveprograms. As part of a comprehensive bill addressing wage issues, The RightStart Act (S. 18/H.R. 265) would authorize federal matching funds to states in2002 for paid family leave programs for the birth or adoption of a child orother family care-giving needs.

    The grants would last for a period of 5years. The legislation is similar to the controversial regulation proposed bythe Clinton Administration last year, the Birth and Adoption UnemploymentCompensation (BA-UC) regulation. The Right Start Act would encourage the LaborSecretary to award funds to states that develop their family leave programsthrough expansion of state unemployment and disability insurance programs. Thebill authorizes $400 million in matching funds in 2002 and such amounts asnecessary for subsequent years.

    Another bill (H.R. 226) was introducedthat only has the provisions of S. 18/H.R. 265 related to establishing paidfamily leave programs, but does not address other wage issues.

Status
   Sen. Daschle (D-SD) introduced S. 18 inthe Senate along with 18 Democratic cosponsors and the bill was sent to theCommittee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Rep. DeLauro (D-CT)introduced H.R. 265 in the House along with 14 cosponsors and the bill wasreferred to the relevant committees with jurisdiction.

    Rep. Woolsey (D-CA) introduced H.R. 226and it was sent to the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The committeesmay hold a hearing on the bill, "mark-up" (edit) the bill throughamendments, vote on the measure or take no action.

Impact
   Critics of the legislation have saidthat the concept of receiving unemployment compensation while on FMLA-like leaveis inconsistent because FMLA is a leave of absence for an employed person whohas a guarantee that his or her job will be held open for a fixed period oftime, provided he or she meets certain criteria.

    However, unemployment compensation isdesigned as income replacement for people who do not have jobs. A number ofbusiness groups have expressed their opposition to the proposal because of theproductivity loss and cost they feel it imposes and out of concern it may beextended to other types of family leave.

    FMLA is an unattractive option for someemployees because they cannot afford a significant period of unpaid time awayfrom work. If states adopt paid family leave programs, employers may see anincrease in employees' use of FMLA, as the time away from work will becompensated.

    Last year, Sen. Gregg (R-NH), Chairmanof the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee on Childrenand Families, urged the Labor Department to withdraw the BA-UC regulationbecause it violated the intent of the FMLA and unemployment insurance laws. Heasked the Labor Department to instead focus on FMLA implementation problems thatwere raised in congressional hearings in 1999.

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SOURCE: HewittAssociates LLC

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