NJ Democrats Announce Plan to Expand Family Leave

Senate President Steve Sweeney. Alyana Alfaro for Observer

Democratic lawmakers in New Jersey announced Wednesday that they intend to expand paid family leave in the state with a bill to extend the benefits from six to twelve weeks for one year, and for the maximum numbers of days off in a year to go from 42 to 84. The bill would also increase weekly benefits from two-thirds to 80 percent of their weekly wage.

Sponsor and State Senate President Steve Sweeney, who sponsored the 2009 legislation that introduced the current policies, called it a necessary safety net for those who would be most affected by the loss of income from a leave of absence. The changes would go into effect July 1st if the bill is successful.

“Family leave insurance can be a lifeline for working families and their loved ones,” Sweeney said. “They’ll get help they need to balance the obligations of job and family in stressful economic times. This is a pro-family bill that allows workers to meet their health and family needs without jeopardizing their economic security.’’

“Expanding family leave benefits helps to address the needs of working people who face the demands of supporting their families at the same time they experience the responsibilities of caring for their children or other family members,” said Senate co-sponsor Patrick Deignan. “This is an insurance program that supports working families during emergency circumstances when their loved ones experience serious medical problems. It is a compassionate program with practical benefits.”

New Jersey is one of three states that currently offer paid family and medical leave, including California and Rhode Island. New York will start offering similar benefits next year, and all four

fund the benefits with employee payroll taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said she will be supporting the plan because of its potential impact on working mothers.

“This expansion will be especially important to low-income families and to working women who so often carry the responsibilities of caring for newborns, for other children and their family members as well holding a job,” Weinberg said. “They are caregivers and breadwinners at the same time. This bill will give them more time and more money to help them meet the demands they experience.”