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Connecticut Set to Become 7th State With Family Leave Law as US Still Lags Behind Rest of Developed World's Policies

"We are proud to join the rest of the world and become just the seventh state in the U.S. to create a system of paid leave."

Connecticut is poised to pass the country's most generous paid family and medical leave, after the state House approved a bill on Friday. (Photo: Eye DJ/Flickr/cc)

Connecticut's Democratic governor is poised to sign the nation's most generous paid family and medical leave bill into law as pressure on policymakers builds to prioritize paid leave as a labor issue.

Following a six-year campaign by women's and workers' rights advocacy groups in Connecticut, the state House passed a bill last Friday guaranteeing 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents and workers who need to take time off to attend to family members' or their own health.

Advocates applauded state lawmakers and Gov. Ned Lamont, who says he plans to sign the bill, but noted that Connecticut's step forward highlights how far behind the U.S. is compared to family leave laws in other developed countries.

"Paid leave is a critical step forward for women's economic security, especially for low-wage workers and women of color who are an increasing number of primary breadwinners for their families," Catherine Bailey of the Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund told the Connecticut Mirror. "We are proud to join the rest of the world and become just the seventh state in the U.S. to create a system of paid leave."

Under the new law, minimum wage employees could have up to 95 percent of their pay covered, capped at $900 per week. New York's recently-passed paid leave policy offers only a 55 percent wage replacement, which will increase to 67 percent when the law is fully implemented.

Connecticut's law, Huffington Post reporter Emily Peck tweeted, is "generous by U.S. standards, which are far below basically anywhere else in the world."

The law is expected to go into effect in July 2021 and would be funded by a 0.5 percent payroll tax. The legislation would allow workers to take paid time off to care for a wide array of loved ones, including grandparents, siblings, and anyone who is "equivalent of a family member"—the most inclusive language in a paid leave bill in the United States.

As in all states, workers in Connecticut have been permitted to take unpaid leave since 1993. State Democrats denounced Republicans during the debate over the new law for suggesting that offering unpaid leave to new parents, people with sick or injured relatives or with health challenges themselves, was sufficient.

"When the Republican Party opposes Paid Family and Medical Leave, what they're really saying is the only people who deserve to take advantage of it are the people who can afford to," tweeted the state Democrats.

"Our humanity should not come down to how much we make for a living," House Majority Leader Matt Ritter told the Mirror.

Momentum began building across the country after the 2016 election to pass paid leave laws. Washington, D.C., Washington state, New York, and Massachusetts have also passed laws in the last three years, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has strived to make family and medical leave a key issue in the 2020 presidential election, as part of the Family Bill of Rights she introduced last month.  

The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights tweeted that a national family and medical paid leave program must be passed by Congress to ensure all American workers can care for their families without worrying about jeopardizing their income.

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