Photo: Michael P. Farrell
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand volunteers at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York on Friday Dec. 2, 2016 in Colonie, N.Y. (Michael P. Farrell/Times Union)
For the third time, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced signature legislation that both have championed: the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act.
The measure, known as the FAMILY Act, would create a national fund to provide workers with 66 percent wage-replacement for 12 weeks per year in case of birth, adoption, recovery from serious illness or caring for an ill relative.
The money for the fund would come from contributions from both employers and employees, but the average employees would only have to pay $1.50 a week.
Gillibrand introduced the bill in the Senate with support from other Democratic senators including Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut.
“As a working mom,” Gillibrand said, she understands how the absence of paid leave presents families “with an awful choice that no American family should have to make. They either quit their job and lose their income or be by their family member’s side.”
She spoke on a press call with DeLauro and several family leave advocates.
DeLauro recounted her often-told story of dealing with ovarian cancer while working as chief of staff to former Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
At the time of her diagnosis in 1986, she was able to obtain leave from Dodd’s office.
DeLauro said she didn’t want paid leave to be a benefit for just a few fortunate congressional staffers. It “should be a fundamental right of all Americans,” she said.
Josh Elliott, who owns a business and represents Hamden, Conn., in the state assembly, said businesses must help their workers because “they are the ones who make it all possible.”
He also said results from states that already have family paid leave show that it does not affect the competitive edge of a small business.
Gillibrand said data from California showed 87 percent saw no increase in their expenses, and 91 percent saw an overall positive effect from paid family leave.
Both Gillibrand and DeLauro have introduced paid family leave three times in the House and the Senate. But it remains to be seen whether they’ll get any traction this year with both Capitol Hill and the White House in Republican hands.
But President Donald Trump talked about maternity paid leave in his campaign, and his daughter, Ivanka, also favors it.
But the Gillibrand-DeLauro measure also focuses on other categories of workers in need of leave apart from maternity.
Gillibrand characterized paid family leave as “not a Democrat or Republican issue.”
She added, “It affects people in all states.”