On Tuesday in a 9-4 vote, the D.C. City Council approved an unprecedented and generous paid family leave plan. Finally, some good news, right? Tuesday’s vote also rejected an 11th-hour proposed amendment to the bill that would change funding for the benefits.
The council voted in favor of the Universal Paid-Leave Amendment Act, which gives eight weeks of leave to new parents, six for caring for a severely ill member of the family, and two for personal sick leave–which is more than the country has ever seen. In addition, the paid leave program will be funded by a new business tax that would raise $250 million a year to cover costs.
As of now, Mayor Muriel Bowser has not said if she would veto the bill. This is crucial, because if she does not veto the bill, it could become law without her signature, as noted by PBS. Democrats Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) proposed an amendment to revise the bill that the benefits be paid for by an individual-employer mandate. Basically, this means employers will agree to pay for parental leave when employees need to access it. For small businesses, tax credits would help cover the costs. The bill is estimated to cost $40 million a year with the amendment, as opposed to the original $250 million.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose office would oversee the leave program, has fought the bill in the past, citing it would be too expensive to fund, but has stated she would support the revised version. Christopher Ruhm, an economist, previously told NewsHour that businesses in California, the first state ever to enact a paid family leave law in 2004, said the state had only seen “positive or, at worst, neutral effects.”
Most importantly, however, the people want it. A 2015 poll found that more than 80% of D.C. voters want paid family leave, because obviously. It’s about time, too, considering the U.S. is behind every country in the world when it comes to paid leave for child care, except Papua New Guinea.