Biden Wants to Create a National Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

by Natasha Gabrielle | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on May 23, 2021

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Currently, the United States doesn't have a national paid family and medical leave program. That could change if this plan becomes law.

Compared to many other countries around the globe, the United States is behind when it comes to paid leave. There is currently no federal paid medical or family leave program in place. And while the United States does have an unpaid family and medical leave program, it only covers some needs. Additionally, not all employees are eligible for benefits.

President Joe Biden wants to change this. Keep reading to learn more about Biden's hopes to create a national paid family and medical leave program.

What federal programs are in place now?

The United States is one of the only countries that doesn't offer guaranteed paid leave. Currently, there is only an unpaid federal program known as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA gives entitled employees unpaid time off for qualifying reasons. The amount of time provided depends on the situation.

An eligible employee can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for the following reasons:

  • The birth of a child
  • Adding a child to the family through foster care placement or adoption
  • Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with serious health concerns
  • A serious health issue that makes the employee unable to perform their job duties
  • A qualifying urgent need arising from the fact that a spouse, child, or parent, is a covered military member on "covered active duty"

An eligible employee can receive up to 26 weeks of leave during a 12-month period for the following reason:

  • Caring for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the child, parent, spouse, or next of kin

There are restrictions in place regarding which employees are eligible for this program. Employees must have been employed for a certain length of time, have worked so many hours before the start of their leave, and the company must employ a certain amount of employees.

With these restrictions in place, some employees may not be eligible. If so, they'd be unable to take the unpaid time off that they need. Employees who can use these benefits would be without a paycheck when taking time off and forced to use whatever they have saved up in their bank accounts.

The American Families Plan highlights national paid leave

Biden outlined his hopes for a national paid family and medical leave program in the American Families Plan. The plan outlines a variety of program goals and aims to invest in children, families, and the country's economic future. He proposes a program that would provide paid leave to workers who require time off for the following needs:

  • Bond with a new child
  • Care for a loved one who is very ill
  • Deal with a loved one's military deployment
  • Recover from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence
  • Heal from a serious illness
  • Grieve the loss of a loved one

The program would guarantee up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness or safe leave by year 10 of the program. It would also ensure that workers are eligible for three days of bereavement leave per year, starting in year one.

The program would provide workers up to $4,000 per month. A minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages would be replaced, rising to 80% for the lowest wage workers. The program is estimated to cost $225 billion over a decade.

How this program could help individuals and families

If this national paid family and medical leave program became a reality, it could help many working families. It would make it so that more people could take necessary time off without worrying about financial stress or facing retaliation from their employer. Biden's proposed plan could also do the following:

  • Reduce racial disparities
  • Improve the wellbeing and health of children
  • Improve employee retention
  • Cut down on employee turnover expenses
  • Increase participation in the women's labor force

While there are many ways this type of program could help the country, it would first need to get passed through Congress. It's unclear if this portion of or any portion of the American Families Plan will become law. The plan would need bipartisan support to pass through Congress -- and right now, there is opposition. So we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the coming months.

While any kind of financial stress is difficult, money concerns can feel extra difficult during a pandemic. If you're struggling with financial matters due to COVID-19, there is support available. Take a look at these coronavirus resources which may be of help. We also have outlined some personal finance resources, which has a wealth of information to help you manage your money.

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