NEW JERSEY – This week, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both-D-N.J.) cosponsored the introduction of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro’s (D-Conn.-03) Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act.
This legislation creates a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program to ensure every worker, no matter the size of their employer or if they are self-employed or part-time, has access to paid leave for every serious medical event, especially for new parents and older Americans who are more likely to have health issues or caregiving obligations for older relatives.
“Parents across the state of New Jersey fear how they will pay their bills and support their families when faced with a sudden medical illness or condition that prevents them from being able to work,” Menendez said. “The FAMILY Act will provide the leave protections workers in America of all ages and stages of parenthood need to be assured that they do not have to choose between their health and taking care of their family.”
“No person should have to choose between their job and their own health and family’s well-being. Yet more than half of Americans are forced to worry whether they will be able put food on the table or keep a roof over their head while navigating life’s biggest challenges and greatest transitions,” Booker said. “Universal paid leave is an investment in families and children, and Congress must act to expand paid leave to every working American. This legislation will make significant improvements to ensure we are prioritizing the needs of working Americans by expanding eligibility to include the public sector workforce, modernizing the definition of ‘family’ to acknowledge the growing caregiving needs of our aging population, and ensuring that workers taking advantage of leave are paid at a fair rate so they aren’t forced to return to work prematurely. It is time we break the cycle of uncertainty and provide a safety net for all workers.”
While Republicans are in the midst of threatening a national default in exchange for massive cuts to child care and other critical services that help working families, Democrats are fighting for policies like national paid leave, affordable child care, and other efforts that will improve the lives of hard-working families in New Jersey and across the country.”
The FAMILY Act would:
- Entitle workers to family and medical leave insurance (FMLI) giving them the ability to take paid leave in the event of the birth or adoption of a child, to care for medical needs of a family member, or to care for their own serious medical conditions
- Provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave
- Provide partial monthly wage replacement, up to a maximum of $4,000 per month
- Finance the program through a 0.4 percent payroll tax, split evenly between employee and employer
- Establish a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration to administer the FMLI program
Additionally, this Congress’ legislation would bring the definition of “family” into the 21st century by expanding the definition to include a broader range of caregiving relations covered by the proposed paid leave policy and include a more progressive wage replacement rate.
Sen. Menendez has long been a strong advocate for paid family leave, and has fought tooth and nail over the years, especially during the pandemic, to address inequities that have disproportionately affected women and people of color. Throughout the years, he has supported efforts to create a national paid leave policy.
Additionally, in May 2020, Sen. Menendez joined Sen. Cory Booker and their Democratic Senate colleagues in calling for the expansion of the earned income and child tax credits, which they expanded for a year under the American Rescue Plan – helping lift women and children out of poverty during that time. Both continue to advocate for the permanent extension of these benefits. Both during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Menendez and several of Democratic colleagues urged the Biden Administration to provide the attention and support necessary to help ensure women can return to the workforce, including by addressing challenges in accessing affordable child care, creating a national paid leave policy, and reducing ongoing gender pay disparities.