Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) will soon introduce legislation to create a paid family leave program for Pennsylvanians.
“While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid time off to care for an ill family member or new child, most Americans cannot sustain their families for more than two weeks without a paycheck,” she said.
Thomas’ legislation would establish a statewide Family and Medical Leave Insurance program that will help Pennsylvanians care for themselves and their families, including parents, when serious illness strikes.
Thomas was joined at the press conference unveiling her plan by Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), who will introduce a companion bill in the Senate, Sen. Maria Collett (D-Montgomery/Bucks) and Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny).
Under the proposal, all working individuals would make small payroll deductions to support a state-managed fund administered by the Department of Labor and Industry. Eligible employees would then receive funds while caring for themselves, a parent or a child in the event of a serious health condition. They would also be eligible to care for a member of the military in qualifying exigent circumstances.
Benefits would be calculated on a graduated scale to ensure the program is accessible to low-wage workers. This would allow a worker to utilize the funds when needed, retain his or her job and return to work, rather than go on unemployment or use a state entitlement program.
“While Pennsylvania’s economic health is strong, and we are drawing businesses to the state, we must also attract and keep workers,” Thomas said. “That’s why we need policies that help young families but does not place pressure on our state budget.”
“As the American workforce continues to change in the 21st century, global marketplace, our state policies should evolve to serve a growing and diverse population,” Laughlin said. “Employers should not have to choose between the health of their business and loyalty to their employees. At the same time, employees should never be forced to choose between their job and taking care of a sick child or an aging parent. In Pennsylvania, families should always come first.”
“From childcare to elder care, the economic impact for family caregivers is cumulative, resulting in risk to the financial security of families, especially in later years,” said Kathy Walsh Beveridge, president, Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition. “The proposed Family Care Act would alleviate the financial stress of economic insecurity for hard-working family caregivers when they must take time off or cut back hours from their paid jobs.”
Thomas’ legislation would be similar to state insurance funds already in place in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Washington and Washington, D.C.
Thomas was inspired to create her plan after meeting a small business owner trapped in a difficult situation.
“Her mother had become very ill and was in the final weeks of her life,” Thomas said. “During this period, the daughter struggled to keep her business afloat while she cared for her dying mother. She had no options. I want to give her one.”