According to The Economist, the U.S. is one of only two countries in the world without a federal policy on paid leave for new parents. The other country is Papua New Guinea. Among the rich countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) new mothers are given an average of 18 weeks of paid leave.
In 2016, for the first time, both presidential candidates supported paid leave for new parents. The issue is likely to be brought up again in the 2020 race. In the most recent budget, Trump proposed six weeks of paid parental leave, but there were no details on funding for the plan. Various bills have been introduced to Congress on the matter, but none have passed.
Without a federal policy in place, states are making their own plans. Most recently, Connecticut and Oregon became the two newest states to guarantee paid family leave, bringing the total number of states to do so up to eight. Colorado, Minnesota, and Vermont are predicted to start discussing the issue next year. California has also recently extended the maximum paid family leave benefits.
The issue is a nonpartisan one. Most voters, especially younger ones, believe parents should have time to bond with their newborns while conservatives want to support the health of families. More, the existing policy does not benefit enough workers. Only about 60% of workers in the private sector are eligible for The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Beyond that, states that have already implemented paid-leave policies have found that it is not an exceptional burden on companies and governments. Giving paid leave actually increases the chances that employees will stay at the company and decreases the chances that they will draw on public assistance.
The disagreements come in when figuring out how to fund the paid leave. States that have made policies on paid leave have funded them through payroll taxes on employees or employers or both. The rate hikes have been as small as 0.1% in New Jersey to as large as 1.1% in Rhode Island. These hikes are not big enough to cause worker backlash.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) says that another way to pay for the program is for parents to withdraw money from Social Security and delay their retirements.
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