WASHINGTON (Nexstar) – On Capitol Hill, lawmakers say they’re working toward a national paid family leave policy, but there’s disagreement about how to accomplish that in a way that would benefit workers without negatively impacting employers.
About 3/4 of workers in the U.S. have access to paid leave, but only about a third of low-wage workers receive the same benefit.
“Somehow the United States is the only developed nation in the world without a national paid leave program,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said.
Senators from both parties say guaranteeing paid family leave would improve the entire economy because more people, especially women, would be able to work.
“We’ve talked about it for years but never seem to do what actually needs to be done.” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) said.
But Republican Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said the government must tread carefully.
“Imposing a one-size-fits-all paid leave program could actually limit employers’ ability to offer paid leave policies,” Crapo said.
Elizabeth Milito, who runs a small business legal center, was one of the witnesses who told senators at a hearing Wednesday that many small businesses can’t afford to provide leave.
“Leave, paid or unpaid is not a free benefit,” Milito said. “The unanswered question with a leave mandate is – who is going to pay?”
But Ben Verhoeven, a small business owner from Oregon, said that investing in paid family leave – has more than paid off for his independent farm and greenhouse business.
“I will see a tremendous return on that investment in the form of retention, promotion and business growth,” Verhoeven said.
There are many different federal paid leave proposals, and most provide some government subsidies. But right now, it doesn’t appear that any have the support needed to become law.