How The "FAMILY Act" Could Make Paid Leave For All Parents & Caregivers A Reality

Raising a family is expensive and challenging. It's basically a delicate balancing act of trying to be there for your family while also making enough money to provide for them. A delicate balance few of us are able to pull off on our best days, if we're being honest. And what happens when it's not our best day, when someone is sick or disabled? What are we meant to do then? This is where a potentially revolutionary new piece of legislation comes in. If you've been wondering what the FAMILY Act is, it could be the answer to some pretty severe parenting problems.

In an effort to solve the serious issue of national parental paid leave, on Thursday, March 7, the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the reintroduced FAMILY Act, also known as the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, first introduced by Democratic Sen. Kristen Gillibrand from New York and Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut.

The FAMILY Act would see workers able to collect a full 66 percent of their wages up to a maximum amount for up to 12 weeks, and it would cover parental leave as well as leave regarding health concerns of a child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner. This would be funded by a small payroll deduction of two-tenths of 1 percent, which would be paid by both employers and employees, as HuffPost explained.

If this bill is passed, it would be a massive step forward for the United States, which Gillibrand noted in a recent speech still lags far behind other developed countries when it comes to paid family leave. "It makes no sense that the United States is still the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have paid leave. It seems absurd," she said, according to The Hill.

Gillibrand — who has entered the race as a potential Democratic presidential candidate for the 2020 election, according to TIME — also noted that the issue of paid family leave remains a specific problem for women. "It's a major cause of the wage gap for women, who still take on the lion's share of responsibility," she said, as The Hill reported.

Tameka Henry of Make it Work Nevada, a member of the Family Values @ Work network, can speak to exactly that. She is a mother of four whose husband is disabled. She was one of the witnesses who spoke in front of Congress today about how difficult it has been for her family to take time off work to care for her husband. She has lost close to $200,000 in wages.

"If I need to take off because my children, my husband or I get sick, I can take off with pay," Henry tells Romper via email of why she supports this bill. "If there's a steady stream of income when someone gets sick, then we can pay the bills and we're not taking a step back."

She added, "The Family Act will provide income security that families need to make progress, become homeowners, live the American dream instead of standing in food pantry lines to make ends meet."

That being said, Family Values @ Work noted that the FAMILY Act would be inclusive: "The bill would apply to all working parents — regardless of sexual orientation and marital status. Even those who aren’t parents have parents or partners or other loved ones who may need care, or may themselves need time to heal, and these needs will also be covered."

Whether or not the FAMILY Act gets passed through Congress is anyone's guess at this point. It is a Democratic bill and the Republican reps might not be interested in signing. Still, President Trump said in 2017, according to HuffPost, that he is interested in making paid family leave happen: "My administration wants to work with members of both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents that they have paid family leave," he said at the time, HuffPost reported.

He also pledged to fund paid family leave in his 2019 State of the Union address, as CNBC reported. "I am also proud to be the first president to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave, so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child," Trump said in February.

President Trump and the Republican party are being given an opportunity to actually help families in dire need of paid leave instead of simply talking about it. The FAMILY Act would allow families a little breathing room, especially when there is a health struggle in the family or a new baby is born.