Local Delegate Introduces Bill to Create Paid Family and Medical Leave Fund in Maryland

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Local Delegate Introduces Bill to Create Paid Family and Medical Leave Fund in Maryland

District 16 state Del. Ariana Kelly says lawmakers support proposed legislation 

February 11, 2016

District 16 state Del. Ariana Kelly this week introduced a bill in Annapolis that would set up a Paid Family and Medical Leave Program in the state.

The bill would create a state-run insurance fund that would pay employees two-thirds of their regular wages for up to 12 weeks if they need to take time off to care for a new child or because of a serious medical condition or other reasons.

Kelly, who in 2014 and 2015 filed related legislation, said the bill introduced this week with Baltimore state Sen. Catherine Pugh was designed “not to put the burden on businesses.”

The money for the fund would be provided via a payroll tax, one of the state and federal taxes such as Social Security and Medicare that employers are required to withhold from an employee’s paycheck. The system is modeled on similar state programs in New Jersey, Rhode Island and California, and legislation passed Feb. 2 in the New York House that’s awaiting a vote in that state’s Senate.

“The goal of the bill is to meet the needs of those who need to take family and sick leave but also to be as supportive to the needs of the business community as possible,” Kelly said Wednesday.

Some part-time workers would be covered and some small businesses would be exempt from the tax.

Businesses in Maryland with fewer than 15 employees are exempt from a requirement to provide leave to new parents, which Kelly and Pugh got passed in 2014. Federal law exempts businesses with fewer than 50 employees from providing family or medical leave for other reasons.

Kelly pointed to a study done of 104 employers in Rhode Island, where that state’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance law that took effect in January 2014. The study found the law made little financial impact on those employers.

Rhode Island’s law provides up to four weeks of paid leave to employees, with a maximum payment of $795 per week. The Maryland fund would allow a maximum payment of $1,000 per week.

The fund would be overseen by the state’s Division of Unemployment Insurance.

The bill, set for a March 1 hearing in the House Economic Matters Committee, has 73 co-sponsors in the House, enough support to pass the legislation. Kelly said she believes the bill will get enough support in the Senate, though it’s unclear whether Gov. Larry Hogan will sign off on it.

“It does mean this is clearly an issue the [legislative] body is interested in finding out more about,” Kelly said. “With the president and now congressional candidates talking about this, we’re finally beginning to recognize the fact that our economy is not sustainable for people who need to take leave.”

She cited a study that said nearly one in four new mothers returns to work less than two weeks after giving birth because they can’t afford to take unpaid leave.

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