Shaheen, Group of Senators Push for Congressional Leadership and Biden Admin to Prioritize Comprehensive Paid Family Leave Program in Build Back Better Package

October 25, 2021


Comprehensive Paid Leave Would Help Add $1.6 Trillion to the Economy;

Gillibrand: “I urge congressional leadership and the Biden administration to continue prioritizing this measure and I am ready to keep fighting alongside my colleagues to get this over the finish line.”

(Washington, DC) – As the Senate continues negotiations on the Build Back Better legislation, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined a group of lawmakers led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to reinforce the critical need for the inclusion of a federal paid family and medical leave program in the package. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world without a national paid leave policy—investing in a national paid leave program is long overdue and would contribute more than $1.6 trillion to the economy by giving women and families the support they need to remain in the workforce. In their letter, the Senators call for a comprehensive, permanent, and meaningful paid leave program that would cover all workers, provide progressive wage replacement to help the lowest wage earners, and cover all existing types of leave with parity.

The Senators wrote, “We urge you to include a national paid leave program that is meaningful, comprehensive and permanent in the Build Back Better Act. It must be universal to cover all workers, provide progressive wage replacement to help the lowest wage earners, and cover all existing types of leave with parity. This is one of our top policy priorities in this historic legislation. Just as we need roads and bridges, we need paid leave along with affordable and accessible child care and the expanded child tax credit, to ensure our families have a full range of needed supports.”

The full letter can be read in full here.

“All across the country working people are looking to Congress to stand with them, seize the moment, and ensure that a strong, equitable paid family and medical leave program is included in the Build Back Better legislative package. The Senators who have signed this letter have made it unequivocally clear that they have our backs and are committed to delivering on the historic opportunity we have right now to pass paid leave and ensure that no working person in America ever has to choose between caring for a loved one and a paycheck.  We couldn’t be more honored to be standing with them,” said Molly Day, Executive Director of Paid Leave for the U.S. (PL+US).

"We're working to end an ongoing pandemic, along with a caregiving and women's jobs crisis. Paid leave is a tool to address all of these problems, to keep workers attached to their jobs, and families and small businesses afloat. There should be no question after this last year of whether paid leave remains in this package, and there will be no lasting recovery and no real building without it. Paid leave is the most common-sense solution and a profound legacy to the challenges we've faced. It is an issue that unites us and the one voters demand, in red districts and blue, from rural communities, to essential workers, to military families, to working families in battleground states and beyond. We trust the Congress and the Administration will deliver on these promises," said Dawn Huckelbridge, Paid Leave for All.

Despite the universal need, only 23% of working people in the United States have access to paid leave through their employer, and just 7% of lower-wage workers have access to even a single day of paid family leave. Rural communities especially lack access to paid family leave, with rural women being significantly less likely to be offered paid family leave or maternity leave by their employers than their urban and suburban counterparts. Additionally, millions of families are just one unexpected bill away from financial emergency and because they lack paid leave, are forced into impossible choices between losing their jobs and being able to care for themselves and their families. More than 2.5 million women left the U.S. workforce during the pandemic, and women lost nearly a million more jobs than men in 2020. Many have been forced to leave due to family considerations, including increased responsibilities as caregivers or because they work in industries that have been among the hardest hit. These losses are disproportionately felt by Black and Latina women.

Along with Senators Shaheen and Gillibrand, the letter was signed by Senators Blumenthal (D-CT), Hirono (D-HI), Duckworth (D-IL), Baldwin (D-WI), Warren (D-MA), Smith (D-MN), Booker (D-NJ), Durbin (D-IL), Hassan (D-NH), Padilla (D-CA), Klobuchar (D-MN), Rosen (D-NV), and Cardin (D-MD).

Senator Shaheen is a champion for working families and fierce advocate for paid family leave. In February, Shaheen joined a group of lawmakers to introduce legislation to create a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would ensure that all workers, no matter the size of their employer or if they are self-employed or part-time, have access to paid leave for serious medical events. The FAMILY Act would create a permanent paid family and medical leave program for all workers that provides up to 66% of wage replacement for 12 weeks, anytime they need it. Last March, Senator Shaheen voted to pass the bipartisan Families First Coronavirus Response Act that required certain employers to provide paid leave to their workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 relief and government funding bill, which Senator Shaheen worked to negotiate and pass into law in December, extended a tax credit through March 2021 to businesses that choose to provide paid sick and family leave to their employees.