Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A family walking up steps

A new provision in the Democratic Party's social spending package would leave out the lowest earners, policy expert Matt Bruenig says. (Photo: Kat Grigg/Flickr/cc)

Democrats' Paid Family Leave Plan 'Keeps Getting Worse,' Policy Expert Warns

The lowest earners "were already not going to get very much under the prior version," wrote Matt Bruenig. "But now they aren't going to get anything."

Julia Conley

People's Policy Project founder Matt Bruenig on Thursday pointed to a new provision buried in the Democratic Party's newest version of the Build Back Better Act that would ensure the lowest earners in the U.S. are left out of the legislation's paid leave program, saying the proposal "just keeps getting worse" as negotiations continue.

"The Democrats modified the eligibility rule to ensure that the lowest earners in the workforce cannot claim benefits from the program."

 
The new version of the bill offers only four weeks of paid leave rather than the 12 weeks initially included, which had the support of seven in 10 Americans, including large majorities of Republican and independent voters.
 
But a "smaller, more insidious change" weakening the package, said Bruenig, is a new rule requiring workers to have earned at least $2,000 in the last two years, in addition to a stipulation that was in the previous version of the bill which requires workers to have "at least the specified amount of wages and self-employment income during the most recent eight-calendar quarter period that ends at least four months prior to the beginning of the individual’s benefit period."
 
 
In other words, Bruenig wrote, the new bill still requires that employees "worked in the period immediately prior" to taking leave, a requirement that already excluded from the benefit "around one in three new mothers, including those who are still in education, disabled, or who have had a recent spell of unemployment."
 
"When reinserting paid leave back into the bill, the Democrats modified the eligibility rule to ensure that the lowest earners in the workforce cannot claim benefits from the program," said Bruenig. "These people were already not going to get very much under the prior version. But now they aren't going to get anything."
 
The new measure stipulating that workers have earned at least $2,000 in the two years prior to taking leave "knocks out of eligibility... the lowest earners in the workforce," he wrote.
 
 
Bruenig added that some in the political press appear to have misunderstood the new requirement, as Politico's Eleanor Mueller claimed on Twitter that the new bill simply "makes sure that people with erratic income can access paid leave even if they haven't worked in the period immediately prior."
 
"The requirement that they have 'worked in the period immediately prior' is contained in paragraph 3, which as you can see clear as day above is still in the bill," countered Bruenig. "Mueller seems to think that paragraph 4 replaced paragraph 3. But this is not the case. Paragraph 4 is a new restriction that is coming in on top of paragraph 3. It does not help people with erratic incomes. It does nothing but make some people who were eligible under the prior version of the bill ineligible under the new version of the bill."
 
Suggesting lawmakers have intentionally misled reporters regarding the details of the new restrictions, Bruenig wrote, "They are tightening the rope on the neck of the poor but don't want anyone to know it."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·


'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·


In 10 Key US Senate Races, Here's How Top Candidates Responded to Roe Ruling

While Republicans unanimously welcomed the Supreme Court's rollback of half a century of reproductive rights, one Democrat said "it's just wrong that my granddaughter will have fewer freedoms than my grandmother did."

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo