At the Y, we know all too well that it takes a village (and a government, and schools, and a community… and a Y!) to nurture and strengthen family connections. Families today increasingly struggle to balance work, financial obligations and family needs. It is a strain that we at the Y try very hard to alleviate with services such as child care, camp, programs that build character, and financial assistance. However, when the normal course of life and financial security is interrupted by the joyous birth of a child or a troubling and unexpected family illness, that delicate balance can fall apart quickly, making families extremely vulnerable. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave aims to provide that extra cushion of support families may need.
At the press conference, Gillibrand expressed concern that women, who represent 48% of the workforce, bear the greatest burden when it comes to taking time off from work and careers to care for newborn children and/or sick family members. Gillibrand explained that when people take time to care for their families, it’s not just that careers are stalled and retirement savings are interrupted, but also that employers are impacted with loss of productivity and the costs of retraining and replacing workers.
Gillibrand’s proposal outlines a program that offers workers 12 weeks paid leave at 66 percent of an employee’s typical monthly wages up to a capped monthly amount. The plan is designed to be a self-sustaining benefit like social security, where the benefits travel with individuals from job to job. The basic design is that employees and employers would each contribute 0.2 percent of wages. The proposed insurance would be administered by the Social Security Administration, using existing infrastructure and minimize implementation costs.
Over the next six months, Gillibrand expects to gain wide support from both parties, since family issues are universal. While we don’t know where this bill will end up, the one thing we are certain about is that families always need the support of their communities! As advocates for kids, families and communities, we will keep an eye on this and other legislation that will impact our families. In the meantime, we will do what we do best – reach out, support and help however we can.