- Biden’s infrastructure plan includes $225 billion to create a paid medical and family leave program.
- It would eventually guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave and would provide workers up to $4,000 per month.
- House Democrat Richard Neal unveiled a similar plan on Tuesday to ensure paid leave for every American.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In a measure that has been pushed for by Democratic lawmakers and organizations, President Joe Biden’s $1.8 trillion plan being unveiled on Wednesday includes funding to create a national paid family and medical leave program.
Last month, Biden released the first part of his infrastructure plan, which focused both on rebuilding physical infrastructure, like roads and bridges, as well as on climate initiatives and affordable housing investments. The second part of his plan proposes childcare funding and universal pre-K, along with $225 billion over a decade to create a paid medical and family leave program, which would reduce racial disparities in wage loss and improve employee retention.
Nearly one in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, and according to AARP, one in five retirees left the workforce earlier than planned to care for sick family members. Dept. of Labor data also found that 95% of the lowest-wage workers, mostly women and workers of color, lack any access to paid family leave.
“The US would join the rest of the world – and certainly the rest of the high-income world – in offering paid leave to new parents and particularly to new moms, as well as ensuring the ability for people to take leave when they’re sick or need to care for a loved one,” paid-leave expert Vicki Shabo, from think tank New America, told Insider. “We are the only country that doesn’t have any guaranteed paid leave for any reason.”
According to a White House fact sheet, Biden’s plan would guarantee 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness leave by year 10 of the program, and it would also provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80% for the lowest-wage workers.
This program resembles Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Richard Neal’s plan introduced on Tuesday to provide universal paid sick leave by setting up 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for every worker in the US, calculating benefits based on average monthly earnings.
“For our economy to fully recover from this pandemic, we must finally acknowledge that workers have families, and caregiving responsibilities are real,” Neal said in a statement. “By acting on this plan, we will rebuild our society to be better and stronger than ever before.”
Insider reported last week that 17 state treasurers were calling on Congress to pass paid family and medical leave, which followed 55 progressive groups urging Biden to invest in the same measure earlier this month.
And In March 2020, a paid sick leave mandate for workers was actually included in President Donald Trump’s Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but an expansion of that mandate was blocked by now-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Biden’s American Rescue Plan extended that credit through September 30.
Shabo said that Biden’s proposal is a good start, and there’s precedent for a phased rollout of paid leave policies. Still, there are some proposals – such as that from Rep. Neal – that would enact leave sooner. But it’s a “good foot in the door.”
“What I would tell a worker is that if the Biden plan is enacted, they’ll no longer have to wonder whether they’ll be able to see their baby’s first smile, or hold the hand of their dying parents,” Shabo said.