President Calls for Paid Family, Medical Leave

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. April 29, 2021
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the U.S. Capitol

​President Joe Biden touted success against the coronavirus pandemic, encouraged vaccination, and called for paid family and medical leave, as well as free community college, in an address to Congress on April 28. 

"America is on the move again," the president said. "Americans never stay down. America is rising anew."

He reviewed three plans that he has proposed during the first 100 days of his term: the American Families Plan; the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which has been enacted; and the American Jobs Plan. 

Biden called the American Families Plan a "once-in-a-generation investment in our families—in our children." If enacted, the plan would provide paid family and medical leave through a federal government program. 

The American Families Plan also calls for free preschool and community college, among other provisions. Twelve years of education is "no longer enough today to compete in the 21st century," Biden said.

Biden referred to ARPA as "one of the most consequential rescue packages in American history" and noted the progress that has been made in the fight against COVID-19. There have been more than 220 million COVID-19 vaccine shots in the past 100 days in the U.S., he said, and 90 percent of Americans are within five miles of vaccination sites. Everyone over the age of 16 is eligible for vaccinations, Biden noted. "Go get vaccinated," he said, calling the progress so far against COVID-19 "one of the greatest logistical achievements our country has ever seen."

Turning to the proposed American Jobs Plan, Biden said that, historically, public investments in infrastructure have transformed America, citing the transcontinental railroad and interstate highways.

The American Jobs Plan is "the largest jobs plan since World War II," Biden said. He predicted that, if enacted, the plan would modernize roads, railways and airports; result in clean water; and create a modern power grid. Biden predicted it would help millions get back to work.

"We can't be so busy competing with one another that we forget the competition is with the rest of the world to win the 21st century," he said.

The president also called on Congress to pass a host of bills, including the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Equality Act. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed these bills and sent them to the Senate, which has not yet acted on them.

We've gathered articles on the president's address to Congress from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets.

American Families Plan

Announced April 28, Biden's $1.8 trillion American Families Plan would, if enacted, provide paid family and medical leave for U.S. workers, supply funding to make two years of community college tuition-free, and make preschool available for all 3- and 4-year-olds. The plan also calls for spending billions of dollars to ensure affordable child care nationwide, as well as expanding subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

The paid family and medical leave program would ensure workers receive partial wage replacement to take time to bond with a new child; care for a seriously ill loved one; deal with a loved one's military deployment; find safety from sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence; heal from their own serious illness; or take time to deal with the death of a loved one. It would guarantee 12 weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness/safe leave by year 10 of the program, and would also ensure that workers get three days of bereavement leave per year starting in year one.

(The Washington Post), (The New York Times) and (The White House)

ARPA Signed into Law Earlier This Year

On March 11, Biden signed into law the latest round of COVID-19-related legislation, the $1.9 trillion ARPA, which provides additional relief to workers and employers through tax credits, expanded federal unemployment benefits and more small-business aid.

(SHRM Online)

ARPA Doesn't Require Leave

ARPA doesn't require paid and emergency family leave. But the law does extend and expand the tax credits that were available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), incentivizing small and midsize employers to provide paid time off for FFCRA and new COVID-19-related reasons. Under ARPA, tax credits continue to be available for paid sick leave and paid family leave, and for these additional reasons:

  • The worker is getting a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The employee is recovering from complications due to receiving the vaccine.
  • The worker is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test or diagnosis for coronavirus.

ARPA also reset the 10-day limit for the tax credit for paid sick leave under FFCRA as of April 1.

(SHRM Online)

American Jobs Plan

On March 31, Biden released his blueprint for a $2 trillion infrastructure proposal, the American Jobs Plan, which includes a call for strengthening unions; job-training measures; and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act is included in the American Jobs Plan. 

The plan also calls for a $40 billion investment in a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training, and it seeks to eliminate racial and gender inequities in research and development, science, technology, engineering and math.

(SHRM Online)

Infrastructure

The spending in the American Jobs Plan would cover a wide range of physical infrastructure projects, including transportation, broadband, the electric grid and housing, as well as efforts to jump-start manufacturing. The plan also would include money for initiatives to support labor unions and providers of in-home care for older Americans and people with disabilities, while also increasing the pay of the workers who provide that care.

(The New York Times)

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