This isn’t the only possible way the plan could work. “For example, the paid family and medical leave proposed as part of President Biden’s American Families Plan would cover nearly all workers, would have a $4,000/month cap on wage replacement, and would be financed through general taxes, but it also has not been scored by the CBO,” KHN reports. “Unlike the House proposal, in Biden’s plan, full benefits would not be realized until year ten of the program. In 2019, the CBO estimated that the Democratic-led FAMILY Act, similar to Biden’s proposal, but partially paid for by a new payroll tax, would cost $547 billion over ten years.”
Whatever the details, it would be a huge boost for workers, families, and children. “Paid family leave has been shown to keep parents attached to their jobs and the labor force, but it also improves babies’ well-being and allows parents to bond with and care for their children without being forced back to work weeks into babies’ lives,” Bryce Covert recently wrote at The New York Times.
Claire Cain Miller—who, for the record, is one of the best reporters at The New York Times—explains the thinking behind some of the proposals in the context of what has worked in other places. For instance, if paid leave is too short, people don’t get the time they need. But if it’s too long—longer than six months, in many cases—women’s careers suffer as they get mommy-tracked. The current plan doesn’t extend job protection to people who don’t already have it under the existing, unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a serious problem because many people aren’t going to be willing to take paid leave if they’re not sure their jobs will be there for them when they return. But passing a bill under budget reconciliation rules bars that from inclusion.
The states that currently have paid family leave fund it through a payroll tax. But, Miller reports, “President Biden pledged not to raise taxes on anyone but the rich. Instead, federal paid leave would be an entitlement for all workers (as it already is for federal workers), paid for by tax increases on corporations and rich Americans.”
However it’s paid for, paid family leave is a desperately needed policy, the need for which has been in sharp relief during the coronavirus pandemic. And the sad thing is that, in the United States, any federal paid family leave policy would be a major advance over the status quo. But let’s be clear: It should reach everyone. It should be 12 weeks. It should pay enough for low-wage workers to be able to take advantage of it and still survive. With the support of more than four in five voters and nearly three in four Republicans, it should not hang on the votes of one or two senators. It should be a slam dunk.