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State Senator

Julie Kushner

Representing Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield, Sherman

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Sen. Kushner Leads Senate Passage Of Historic Paid Family Medical Leave Bill For CT

HARTFORD – State Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) today led the Connecticut State Senate in the debate and passage of Senate Bill 1, a bill creating a statewide paid family and medical leave program to provide necessary benefits to Connecticut residents in order to care for a newborn baby or a sick family member.

If it is ultimately passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor Lamont, SB l – the Senate Democrats’ top public policy priority for 2019 – would have Connecticut join California, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington state in offering their residents a paid family and medical leave programs.

“Once again, Democrats are leading the way in making Connecticut a better place to live and work. And I truly believe that building this paid FMLA program will prove to be some of the best work we have ever done in the state legislature,” said Sen. Kushner, who is Senate Chair of the Labor Committee. “Throughout my campaign last fall, I heard from everyone – Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters – how important a paid family and medical leave act is for them, for their families, and for their work-life balance. Small-business owners support paid FMLA. This has not been, and it should not be, a partisan issue. Taking care of a family member during a serious illness, or welcoming a new baby into the world – these are issues that affect every family. We need a paid family and medical leave act in Connecticut so we don’t have to choose between taking care of a family member and earning a paycheck, or paying the rent. The people of Connecticut need to know the State of Connecticut has their back. And that’s what we did tonight – we voted to make Connecticut a better place to come and work and raise a family.”

The creation of a paid family and medical leave policy in Connecticut has very strong and very broad public support: an April 2016 AARP CT poll showed 82% support for paid leave, with only 12% opposed. An April 2019 poll by BLS Research & Consulting found 88% public support for paid leave in Connecticut, including 78% of Republicans and 86% of unaffiliated voters.

Connecticut’s policy change is driven in part by changing family dynamics: the percentage of two-parent households in which both parents work full-time increased from a third of all households in 1970 to nearly half of all households in 2015.

And, like other states across America, Connecticut is now trying to catch-up with the rest of the world when it comes to paid family and medical leave. According to a United Nations survey, 183 of 185 countries and territories provide some sort of paid maternity leave. Of the 41 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the European Union, the United States is the only nation that does not provide any paid leave for new parents.

Details of Senate Bill 1, “AN ACT CONCERNING PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE,” include:

  • Length of Leave: Connecticut employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. If an employee experiences pregnancy-related serious health condition that results in incapacity then the employee would be eligible for 14 weeks. Similarly, state programs in Massachusetts and Washington state provide 12 weeks of paid leave. Washington also provides an additional two weeks for serious pregnancy-related health conditions. However, in Massachusetts employees are eligible for 20 weeks of paid leave for their own serious health condition.
  • Reasons for Leave: Connecticut employees would be able to use paid family and medical leave for five reasons: care for a new child (birth, adoption, foster); care for family member with serious health condition; care for their own serious health condition; a qualifying emergency arising out of family member being on active duty; or to serve as an organ or bone marrow donor. New York, Washington state, and Massachusetts allow reasons one through four. Connecticut would be the only state in the country to allow for paid leave due to donating bone marrow or an organ.
  • Definition of Family Member: Connecticut’s definition of a family member would align with that of New Jersey and include: Child; Parent; Spouse; Domestic partner; Grandparent; Grandchild; or an individual related to the employee by blood or affinity whose close association the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships
  • Benefit Amount: Beginning January 1, 2022, the weekly benefit for Connecticut employees will be 95% of 40 times the minimum wage and 60% on earnings above the minimum wage. The maximum weekly benefit cannot exceed 60 times the minimum wage, which is the equivalent of $780 on a $13 minimum wage, $840 on a $14 minimum wage, and $900 on a $15 minimum wage. Connecticut’s benefits align similarly with other states. In California the maximum weekly benefit is $1,252, $1,000 in the District of Columbia, and $850 in Massachusetts.
  • Employees Covered: Paid leave will apply to private-sector employers with one or more employees. Self-employed employees and sole-proprietors have the ability to opt-in to the program. In addition, non-union state and local government employees are covered. Unionized workers will have the ability to collectively bargain and become covered. Similarly all private sector employers are covered in state paid leave programs in California, the District of Columbia, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Washington state.
  • Program Funding: Personal disability leave and family care leave will be funded by the employee only. The withholding rate is one-half of one percent on earnings, up to the Social Security wage base. For comparison, other states fund paid leave programs through either the employee only or through a combination of the employee and the employer. In California, both personal disability and family care are funded by the employee only at 1 percent of a worker’s first $118,371 in wages. In Rhode Island, both personal disability and family care are funded by the employee only at 1.1 percent of a worker’s first $71,000 in wages.

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