What You Need to Know About the FAMILY Act
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave, or FAMILY Act, would allow paid time off for people to take care of a newly born or adopted child or a seriously ill family member or to recover from their own illness. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) once again introduced the legislation in 2019; Gillibrand first introduced a FAMILY Act bill in 2013 and made family leave part of her campaign for president that was launched in March 2019. (She suspended her campaign in August 2019.)
FAMILY Act Basics
The proposed law would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave at 66 percent of a person's monthly salary each year, with a maximum amount of $1,000 a week. The family or medical leave would be funded through a 0.2 percent payroll tax paid by employees and employers. The legislation would create an Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration to administer the benefits.
The money would be paid every month beginning on the first of the month as long as the employee had filled out an application within the previous 90 days, was insured for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act and had been employed for one year.
According to the 2019 bill introduced by Gillibrand, "in more than two-thirds of families with children, all adults in the household work." Some 43.5 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care to family members. Six of every 10 of those caregivers work, and more than half of them work full-time.
"An estimated 36,000,000 working-age adults live with a family member who has a disability," the proposed legislation states. "Without paid family and medical leave, many workers are unable to take time away from work to care for newborn children, parents, and relatives with serious health conditions, or themselves."
Only 17 percent of civilian workers in the U.S. are eligible for paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent of civilian workers are offered short-term disability insurance through their employer to enable them to seek care for their own illness.
Furthermore, almost half of workers who qualified for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 in 2011 were unable to take the leave because they could not afford to take time off without pay, the bill stated. "Six in ten workers who took partially paid or unpaid leave reported difficulty making ends meet; half of these workers were forced to cut their leaves short due to financial constraints," according to the proposed legislation.
Only 17 percent of workers were allowed to take family leave in 2017; among workers in the lowest-paying jobs, only 5 percent had access to family leave.
"Workers who lack paid family and medical leave face lost wages or even job loss when they miss work because of their own illness or to care for an ill child or parent," Gillibrand's bill stated. "In this way, access to paid family and medical leave plays a critical role in families’ efforts to maintain employment and economic security."
The United States is the only industrialized nation to not offer paid maternity leave.
The states of California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, and Massachusetts and the District of Columbia require employers to offer paid family leave or have passed legislation that mandates it.
Similarly Named Legislation
The FMLA of 1993 provides employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to recover from serious illness or to care for a newborn or a seriously ill spouse, parent, or child. The employee has to have worked for their employer for 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year to be eligible. This law covers only companies with 50 employees or more.
The Family Act of 2013, which was also introduced in the Senate by Gillibrand, sought to create a tax credit for half of the out-of-pocket costs associated with in vitro fertilization and fertility preservation.