Trump’s Parental Leave Proposal Fails Working Families

Washington, DC—Following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project:

“It’s a testament to the national movement to solve the paid leave crisis that the Trump administration is even offering a parental leave plan in its proposed budget. Unfortunately, the proposal falls far short, failing to deliver even a basic package of benefits needed to meet the everyday challenges of today’s working families. At the same time, the proposal severely compromises our nation’s unemployment insurance safety net, which is already in dire need of repair.

“The United States needs to join the likes of other industrialized countries and offer a basic set of paid family and medical leave benefits, which should include at least 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a newborn or adopted child or a seriously ill family member (covering the individual’s parents and children, as well as workers who themselves have a serious health issue). The Trump plan, by contrast, is limited to six weeks of parental leave to care for a newborn or adopted baby, at the low benefit levels determined by state unemployment insurance programs.

“Three out of four people who take leave from work do so for family and medical reasons; they all are left out of the Trump proposal.

“The Trump plan would put additional stress on an already weakened unemployment insurance safety net, setting up its parental leave proposal for failure. The business lobby has been chipping away at the unemployment insurance system for years, resulting in a smaller share of jobless workers receiving benefits and lower benefit amounts. The so-called recipiency rate—the share of unemployed workers receiving benefits—has dropped to only one in four (in 12 states, it’s below one in five). And today’s benefits replace only about one-third of the wages earned by the average worker (the average is $344 per week, while in 14 states, workers collect less than $300 a week in benefits).

“To impose these exceedingly limited UI benefits on a new parental leave program would leave millions of vulnerable families out in the cold, without unemployment insurance or real paid leave benefits.

“Moreover, according to the federal budget documents released today, Trump’s plan requires the state unemployment insurance trust funds to shoulder the full responsibility of financing the parental leave benefits, at the same time that they must continue to build sufficient reserves to pay unemployment benefits when the next recession hits. While the budget proposes to increase employer taxes in states that have low trust funds, this merging of the financing of the two programs is a recipe for disaster, especially for jobless families. It adds more fuel to the fire that caused so much damage to the UI program after the Great Recession, when states slashed UI benefits in response to employers lobbying to prevent higher UI taxes.

“What’s needed is a comprehensive and inclusive policy with a strong structural foundation and dedicated funding source, such as the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which is the leading proposal that was recently re-introduced in Congress. The FAMILY Act is designed to meet the paid leave needs of working people, families, businesses, and our economy; it is modeled on successes and lessons learned from state paid family and medical leave insurance programs.

“Trump’s budget is replete with massive cuts to critical programs while extending extreme tax breaks to the nation’s wealthiest corporations and individuals. Now is the time to oppose these Trump budget priorities and promote a fair and inclusive economy that invests in families with new initiatives like the FAMILY Act.”


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