The Family and Medical Leave Act provides unpaid leave for employees to have a baby, take care of a newborn, adopt a child, care for an ill family member or to recover from a serious health condition. But President Barack Obama has promised to encourage states that want to initiate programs under FMLA for paid, rather than just unpaid, leave.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., has introduced the Family Income to Respond to Significant Transitions, or FIRST, Act. The measure would provide up to $1.5 billion in grants to states that want to pursue paid family and medical leave programs. States could receive money from this fund if they offered at least six weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. States could receive additional funding if they allowed paid leave for other reasons.
The bill, introduced May 7, 2009, mirrors the president's promise closely. It has attracted 23 co-sponsors and has had one hearing at a House subcommittee.
Still, the bill has attracted just a small fraction of the 113 co-sponsors who signed on to the Healthy Families Act, a higher-profile bill that addresses a related workplace issue, guaranteed sick days. The bill could also attract the opposition of business groups, who argue that the Healthy Families Act could harm small businesses that are already struggling in the current recession, as well as the opposition of fiscal conservatives, who are in no mood to support further federal spending. In addition, there is no Senate version yet. Finally, given the crowded congressional agenda, it's not clear when the measure will be taken up.
So the odds look long for passage in the near future — but the odds are somewhat better for a different bill that would advance paid parental leave.
The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act won passage in the House on June 4, 2009, by a 258-154 vote. The bill would provide federal workers with four weeks of paid leave under the FMLA for the birth or adoption of a child.
Many Republicans argued against the bill, saying that federal workers already get better vacation benefits than private-sector workers and noting that the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would cost $938 million between 2010 and 2014.
A companion bill in the Senate is set for a hearing this month.
All of this is enough for us to rate it In the Works.