- U.S. workers would receive 12 weeks of family and medical leave at partial pay under President Joe Biden's American Families Plan, which he introduced Wednesday.
- The plan guarantees access to the leave 10 years after the program's installment. It promises to provide workers up to $4,000 per month and several types of leave, including parental, family, medical and safety leave. The White House estimated the program will cost some $225 billion in the next decade.
- Biden proposed numerous other measures in his plan. Should it pass, low- and middle-income families will spend no more than 7% of their income on "high-quality child care," it says. The plan also calls for universal preschool, available to 3 and 4 year olds.
Biden's proposal arrives as U.S. workers and employers continue to grapple with a lack of federally mandated paid leave.
Before the pandemic, legislators, advocates, workers and employers were calling for national paid leave legislation. Stakeholders floated several proposals by mid-2018. There was the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, designed to solve the patchwork created by emerging state sick-leave mandates. Then there was the FAMILY Act, which would fund 60 days of paid leave for eligible employees through a payroll tax. Marco Rubio introduced a bill that would allow new parents to withdraw a portion of their Social Security to fund their leave. But no proposal gained lasting traction in Congress.
The pandemic forced a temporary solution. Former President Donald Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act March 18, 2020, obligating employers with fewer than 500 employees to offer two kinds of paid leave to workers affected by the pandemic.
But that law came with a sunset date, although Biden extended the tax credit employers could redeem for volunteering to provide FFCRA paid leave. Calls were made to fill the void, yet political fault lines emerged once again, even as coronavirus cases climbed, schools and care facilities remained closed, and many employers continued virtual work.
Democratic lawmakers have signaled support for Biden's proposal. "It's unacceptable—and quite frankly a national disgrace—that in 2021 we are still forcing workers to make these impossible choices," Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) said in a statement shared with HR Dive. "It's long past time this country establish a national paid family and medical leave program, and I'm grateful that President Biden recognizes just how critical this is to rebuilding an economy that works for everyone."
The president's plan faces the roadblock many previous leave proposals have faced, however: GOP lawmakers, who have long criticized the expense of such legislation.