October 8, 2015 — Members of the Council of the District of Columbia on Tuesday introduced a measure that would grant almost all individuals who live or work in the District 16 weeks of paid family and medical leave, the Washington Post reports (Davis, Washington Post, 10/6).
Under the District bill, most individuals who live or work in the District would be able to take 16 weeks of paid leave after a child is born or adopted, to care for family members who have a serious health condition or to recuperate from their own serious health condition. Individuals making up to $52,000 per year would be entitled to 100% of their pay while on leave. Workers who earn more than $52,000 annually would be eligible for $1,000 per week and 50% of their additional income, up to a total of $3,000 per week.
According to the Washington Post, the funding for the benefit would come from a new tax on employers in the District. Employers would be required to pay into the fund on a sliding scale, with employers of the District's most highly paid workers -- such as law firms and lobbying groups -- paying about 1% of the salary of each worker who earns more than $150,000, or about $1,500 per employee each year. Meanwhile, employers of minimum-wage workers would be required to pay 0.6% of each employee's salary per year (Davis, Washington Post, 10/5).
However, according to Vox, the District cannot tax the federal government, which is the largest employer in the capital. Therefore, under the bill, federal employees who reside in the District would pay a tax and be eligible for the program. Federal workers who reside in Maryland or Virginia would be ineligible, while self-employed workers and freelance employees would be able to voluntarily participate in the program (Yglesias, Vox, 10/6).
The Obama administration strongly supports the measure. The administration is using $2 million to help fund paid family leave efforts in 12 states and local governments around the country.
D.C. Council member Elissa Silverman (I), one of the measure's primary supporters, cited the Obama administration's support for the measure, noting, "We now have a national platform and a great opportunity with this legislation to show how it can be done."
U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said, "The United States is one of the few countries on Earth without national paid leave. Fortunately, we have seen remarkable progress ... where innovative state and local officials are designing paid-leave policies that work for their citizens."
Jeffrey Hayes, study director at the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said the proposed leave program is "a very cost-effective program, it doesn't require a lot of money to provide a whole lot of benefit" (Washington Post, 10/5).
Separately, Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families, praised the bill, saying, "By creating a paid family and medical leave insurance program that would make paid leave accessible to virtually everyone, the proposal would establish a much-needed standard that would have a tremendously positive impact on the city’s workers and their families, businesses of all sizes, and the local economy." She added, "The District will be better off when this bill becomes law" (National Partnership for Women & Families release, 10/6).