Paid family leave

NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: Paid family leave.

There are employers in this country who provide it. But the United States is the rare nation that doesn’t require employers to provide paid family leave, or provide it by way of the taxpayer.

President Trump made it a signature issue during his presidential campaign, and it’s increasingly becoming a bipartisan issue.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Yeah, they say politics makes strange bedfellows, and that certainly seems to be the case when it comes to paid family leave.

For example: Liberal New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has partnered with the traditionally conservative American Enterprise Institute to put forward a bill.

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican. He’s working with Ivanka Trump and the Independent Women’s Forum on competing legislation.

I spoke with WORLD Radio correspondent Laura Finch to learn more about the differences between the bills and how likely either are to eventually become law. She’s been working on this story for The Stew. That’s our weekly political roundup from WORLD Digital.

Laura, tell me about this bipartisan move toward paid family leave.

LAURA FINCH, REPORTER: Yeah, I think really right now the debate on Capitol Hill is not whether to make this happen but how to make this happen. Even conservatives are talking about the business benefits of paid leave. Things like employee retention, employee morale, and, subsequently, productivity. All of these things go up when you offer paid leave. 

So this definitely has bi-partisan support. Right now there’s only two proposals kind of floating around. One is from Senator Kristen Gillibrand of New York. It would be a payroll tax hike of point-4 percent.

The other is a plan from the Independent Women’s Forum. They’ve spoken to Senator Marco Rubio’s office, and supposedly he’s going to drop this as a bill very soon. But it would allow young parents to delay their Social Security retirement by three months in exchange for a partially funded parental leave now. It would be entirely voluntary. It would be capped at $600 a week, depending on what you make. And it would be for parents. You couldn’t take it for sick leave for yourself or to care for another family member.

But the big thing about this is it would be budget neutral. That’s really the fresh thing about this idea.

BASHAM: Right. Except that Social Security is dying anyway. So how does that work?

FINCH: I know. Congress would need to come up with a fix for Social Security in order for this to work. But the experts that are speaking on this, they’re saying that this program is just a rounding error compared to the greater solvency issues of Social Security. The other difference with this is that it’s a choice. We know that people make different financial decisions when they have some skin in the game. So to cause people really to think about whether they need this money now or later, it kind of changes behavior.

BASHAM: Well and what are you hearing? I mean, you talked to some regular moms about this. What about dads? Are we going to see fathers able to take the paid leave as well?

FINCH: Yes. Fathers can take this as well. Men can take it as well as women. I did ask some friends who are all working parents on social media what they thought about this. Most would take it. But I want to play two clips right now for you, Megan. They’re kind of two contrasting views from two working moms. The first is a C-SPAN caller. People can call into this morning program Washington Journal. So, this woman named Robin—she identifies as an independent—she called the program last year on this topic. This was before the Social Security option was on the table. Here’s what she had to say:

AUDIO: I don’t want anything else deducted from my check. I don’t want anything else. Plus, when I was having my family, I knew I needed to save at least six months’ of bills and stuff. I was carefully planning my parenthood. And people should do that… after 8 weeks, a Cesarean birth, I went back to work… I do not believe that I should have to be paying tax for some other woman’s decision to have a child if she’s not financially prepared for it… There’s a limit to what taxes can pay for.

So, I also spoke with Tonya. She’s a mom of five in Ohio who also works in a daycare, so she kind of sees this from both ends. And we spoke by phone. Here’s what she had to say:

AUDIO: I would because I live paycheck to paycheck, as most people do. I love being a mom, and most people say well if you can’t afford to take maternity leave then, don’t have another child. That’s not how it works for me. If I’m blessed with a child, then I’m blessed with a child and I love being a mom. But it’s hard to take that time with no income. I can’t take money from every paycheck aside because I need that. I have a family currently.

BASHAM: Well, where are we at with the bill now? What’s even the likelihood that something, in your opinion, is going to pass?

FINCH: Well, we’re still waiting to see a draft of that Rubio bill. His office has promised to keep me updated. But we do know that Ivanka Trump is involved and very interested. She was front row at a hearing last week on both methods. So we know that she really wants to see this happen. Keep an eye on our website, The Stew is our weekly political column and I’m writing about that for this week on that platform. So, that goes up on Thursday and I’ll have more at that time.

BASHAM: Well, we will look forward to that. Thanks so much, Laura.

FINCH: Thank you, Megan.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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