Louisiana group pushes paid family leave (copy)

New Orleans Democratic Sen. J.P. Morrell addresses a rally Wednesday, April 17,2019, in favor of a state paid family and leave program

The United States is the only industrialized nation without a paid family leave policy, and a new report by the Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) urges Louisiana lawmakers to take action on a state level to change that — outlining several different policy options.

"This report provides many different options for a paid leave program in Louisiana, and we welcome the debate on how this could happen," LBP Executive Director Jan Moller said. "What we should not be debating is whether this should happen. Too much evidence exists that shows that this would be beneficial to the people of our state."

The report recommends any potential paid family leave program in the state is available to all workers, employs a progressive wage replacement model to ensure sufficient benefits to low-wage workers, offers job protections and includes caregiving and personal disability.

The LPB also proposes defining “family” broadly with consideration of modern family structures and using a state-administered insurance model paid for by employer and employees

Passed in 1993, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for newborns or ill family members — but only for those who have been employed for at least a year and work for a company with at least 50 employees.

And studies show that many workers who are eligible for unpaid leave do not take it because they can’t afford to go that long without a paycheck. According to the report, that’s the case for an estimated 35 percent of working adults in the state.

Additionally, more than 676,000 of Louisiana workers are not eligible to earn a single paid sick day, the report said.

Support for a national policy is strong. A 2018 poll by consulting firm GBA Strategies found that 82 percent of Louisiana residents support a national paid family and medical leave policy.

The publishing of the report comes at a time when lawmakers at both the federal and state levels are considering paid family leave options.

However, proposals vary widely when it comes down to how the leave is funded.

State Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, would have both employers and employees pay a portion of their salary into a paid family leave pool, creating a statewide pool from which to administer the leave of up to 12 weeks. Employees would pay less than half of one percent of their salary, with the company pitching in a similar contribution.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, announced last month that he was working on a bipartisan paid family leave plan with U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, but details on the policy have not yet been released. In February, Cassidy met with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior advisor, to discuss the issue.

Traditionally, Republican-backed plans have involved drawing from existing social insurance programs — such as Social Security — to pay for family leave.

Currently, only five states — California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington — along with Washington D.C. have paid family-leave programs.

Follow Kaylee Poche on Twitter: @kaylee_poche