U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez today announced that Washington state is one of eight states to receive grant funding to help implement paid leave programs around the country. Gov. Jay Inslee said the $247,000 grant will allow Washington state to launch the important first steps in designing the paid family leave program approved by the Legislature in 2007.
Inslee says this grant signifies one of the steps needed towards addressing lack of economic opportunity and security for low-wage earners in Washington state.
“Paid family leave is one of the most important things we can do for working families. Though our state’s economy is growing, economic insecurity remains a real challenge for many of Washington’s working families,” Inslee said. “Workers often face no-win decisions about returning to work and sacrificing time to care for and bond with a new infant or provide medical care for an ill or aging partner or parent. They simply can’t afford to take time off. Every other industrialized nation has developed an effective tool to help employers and employees with this challenge – so can we.”
The federal Family Leave Act and Washington State Family Leave Act guarantee employees up to 12 weeks of leave for eligible pregnancy, newborn and medical care situations, but it is unpaid. The Legislature approved the Family Leave Insurance Act in 2007 to provide paid leave, but implementation has been postponed due to lack of funding. The federal grant, which will be administered through the State Employment Security Department, will pay for a cost-benefit analysis of possible program designs and research voters’ preferences and views on paid family leave.
The U.S. Labor Department says paid leave programs have been shown to improve health outcomes for children and families, keep workers in the workforce and boosts their lifetime earnings, and increase employee retention which provides long-term cost-savings to employers. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and several cities have passed paid family and medical leave or earned sick days laws, and a growing number of businesses in Washington are implementing paid leave policies of their own.
“No one should be forced to choose between their paycheck and taking care of their family during a medical crisis,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray, a champion of paid family leave. “This announcement is great news for Washington state’s efforts to expand paid leave, and the grant will help administrators understand how to best implement effective programs that work for families and our economy. I am proud that Washington state is leading the way in working to expand access to paid leave programs, and I’m going to keep fighting in Washington, D.C. to move forward with pro-family policies that would reward, not punish family members for taking care of themselves and loved ones.”
More information about the grant and federal paid leave efforts are available from the Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/wb/paidleave/PDF/PaidLeave.pdf.