- President Donald Trump called on legislators to advance a bill that would provide a tax credit advance to new parents during his State of the Union address Jan. 4.
- The Advancing Support for Working Families Act, also known as the Cassidy-Sinema plan, would allow individual taxpayers to receive an advance of up to $5,000 of their federal Child Tax Credit during the year of the birth or adoption of a qualifying child. Parents who don't qualify for the full refundable portion of the tax credit would be able to receive the lesser option of either $5,000 or 25% of their earned income for the taxable year.
- The measure has been touted as a paid leave bill but does not guarantee workers time off or provide job protection for those who take leave. Supporters have suggested that workers could use the credit to finance leave or, if unable or unwilling to take time off, pay for childcare.
Members of the administration, including the president, have addressed the subject of family leave with varying degrees of movement since the president took office in 2017. Trump also made paid family leave a talking point in his 2019 State of the Union address, though without endorsing a specific plan (despite the fact that legislators and interest groups had floated several proposals at the time).
Though Trump said during his speech the tax credit advance bill would have the effect of "extending family leave to mothers and fathers all across our nation," the bill would not provide job protection for employees not covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Still, the proposal has garnered support from both sides of the aisle. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Bill Cassidy, R-La., speaking at a September event, said their bill amounts to a compromise that gets around funding debates that have stalled other paid family leave proposals. The bill, which has yet to move past the committee stage in either the House or Senate, is unlike other proposals in that it doesn't take away from Social Security benefits or introduce a payroll tax. "By utilizing the child tax credit and making it optional, families can choose to utilize the dollars to which they are entitled anyway, just using them sooner in their child's lifetime," Sinema said.
The debate comes as top employers have become advocates for a national paid leave policy. In a December 2019 letter, then-president and CEO of IBM Ginni Rometty asked Trump and Congressional leaders to enact federal legislation that would make paid family and medical leave benefits available to U.S. workers. "Providing these benefits is an important part of serving the needs of our employees and their families," Rometty said.
In the meantime, some employers have expanded paid leave programs for new parents beyond what federal law requires. That's in part due to statistical evidence showing the impact on retention and other metrics that paid parental leave can have, but also new state and local laws.