President Joe Biden has unveiled the framework for a proposed $1.75 trillion social spending and climate plan.
But one key component — paid family and medical leave — has been nixed from the proposal.
Biden had called for 12 weeks of paid leave as part of his American Families Plan. In recent days, that was whittled down to four weeks as Democrats tried to reduce the costs of the bill. Talks had also turned to the possibility of just providing paid leave to new parents.
Now, however, reports point to no paid leave in the plan, due to opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
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Eligible American workers have access to unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. However, there have been calls on both sides of the aisle for a national paid leave program, which would bring the U.S. up to date with most other developed nations that already offer such plans.
Former President Donald Trump had included a paid leave proposal in his budget, while daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump also supported the issue. During the Covid-19 pandemic, a temporary paid leave policy was put in place that was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. Under Biden’s leadership, Democratic leaders saw an opportunity to get a national plan through.
One key part of the debate has been how such a program would be funded, whether by businesses or the federal government.
Currently, nine states and Washington, D.C., have worked to put paid family leave programs in place. Companies may also opt to provide such programs to their employees.
Yet 79% of workers do not have access to a defined paid caregiving leave policy, while 60% do not have access to paid medical leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. Their recent poll suggested that access to paid leave could help encourage unemployed workers to return to the workforce.
This week, advocates for the plan on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have vowed to keep fighting to have it included.
“Until the bill is printed, I will continue working to include paid leave in the Build Back Better plan,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a statement on Wednesday.
Non-profit organization Paid Leave for the United States launched an ad to urge Biden and other Democratic leaders to include paid leave in the legislative deal. The commercial is slated to run on D.C. cable with an initial $100,000 buy.
“It’s outrageous and shameful that in the midst of a global pandemic that’s forced more than 2 million women out of the workforce, Congress and the White House have put forward a preliminary legislative deal without paid family and medical leave,” Molly Day, executive director at Paid Leave for the United States, said in a statement.
“Let’s be clear: A budget deal that does not include paid leave fails working families and will not allow us to build back better,” she said.
Elsewhere, the fight for paid family leave continues. There are campaigns for more states to adopt paid leave policies. The election platform of Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, includes access to paid sick, family and medical leave.
Advocacy for a national policy is also expected to continue, though it remains to be seen exactly how supporters will regroup after this setback.
Support for such a policy change has come from parents, families, the disability community and senior groups, noted Kathleen Romig, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“The momentum behind this issue is big and it’s real,” Romig said.