On Tuesday, February 12th, the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act was reintroduced. The bill was first introduced in 2013, and is now being reintroduced in 2019 due to a Democrat majority in the House. The previous bill that served a similar purpose to the FAMILY Act was the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); however, the leave that this bill provided was unpaid, which forced countless amounts of people in the United States to put their financial security at risk in order to take care of their families. As a result, US Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are sponsoring the FAMILY Act in hopes of providing people in the US with the opportunity to take time off work when needed, and still get paid for it.
In her article, “Dementia and Caregiving in the US: Time for Paid Family Leave,” Janet Walsh discusses her own experiences with taking time off from work to care for her elderly father who had dementia. Walsh was fortunate enough to be able to get paid time off to be by her father’s side in the hospital and help with responsibilities that her father could no longer take care of, including “care conferences, medical appointments, and other official business”. Furthermore, Walsh notes that, “5.7 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s dementia,” meaning that 5.7 million people’s families in the US are being forced to make the difficult choice between risking their financial security and taking care of their loved ones. In regards to the FAMILY Act, Walsh makes the following statement: “When my dad passed away late last year, I needed time off work to care for him, and to say goodbye. In his final days and hours, during what normally would have been work days, I could be at his side without worrying about my job or financial security”. While Walsh was lucky enough to be able to make money while spending time with her elderly father, many people in the US do not have this luxury, which is why passing the FAMILY Act is necessary.
Under the FAMILY Act, workers would be granted up to 12 weeks off from work when needed (i.e. caring for an elderly parent or maternity leave), and continue to “earn 66 percent of their monthly wages, up to a capped amount”. Currently in the US, California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington and Massachusetts already have programs in place that provide paid leave to workers, and the FAMILY Act would enforce these policies in the remaining states across the country that do not yet provide these opportunities. The FAMILY Act would be funded by employee and employer contributions of approximately less than $2 a week, which would benefit workers all over the US by creating a safety net to pay for their time off. The FAMILY Act would “create a comprehensive national program that helps the needs of new mothers and fathers and people with serious personal or family health issues”.