This letter was submitted by Representative Robin Scheu, D-Middlebury:
Democrats have long been the champions of working families, women, and children.
We believe in a Vermont where our families and communities can thrive and where the Vermont dream is accessible to everyone – not just a select few.
When we rewrite the rules so that families can care for and support themselves, we boost the economy and build stronger, healthier communities.
Today, too many Vermonters struggle to care for and support themselves and their families.
That’s why I have been a strong supporter of a universal paid family leave program for Vermonters.
Working Vermonters should have the security of being able to welcome a new child or care for a sick family member without fear of losing income or being fired.
A strong, universal paid family leave program will support the health, wellbeing, and economic security of our children, families, and small businesses, and ensure that the next generation has a bright future.
The bill that we are voting on, H.107, ensures that any employee who works at least 675 hours in the past four calendar quarters is eligible for paid family leave and may choose to opt in for personal medical leave.
This means that a person making as little as $7398/year would be eligible for benefits.
The bill is intentionally progressive as those in lower income brackets, who can least afford to take unpaid leave, would receive proportionally higher wage replacement.
Under the terms of the legislation, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks for bonding leave (if two parents are eligible, each parent receives up to 12 weeks), 8 weeks for family care leave, and 6 weeks for voluntary medical leave.
The personal medical leave piece is an opt-in program for employees who wish to have personal medical leave as part of the program.
A report is required by January 2021 that will offer a path forward for universal medical leave.
While many of us had hoped to include universal medical leave (TDI or temporary disability insurance), it just wasn’t possible.
However, this bill finally takes the steps promised when unpaid leave was approved over 25 years ago, and it takes important first steps in making sure that TDI is available to all qualified employees.
Employers may not deny an employee access to the opt-in TDI program. So this is a beginning, not an ending.
This paid family leave bill will help boost our economy by supporting our existing workforce and attracting more people to the state to live, work, and raise families.
It also will help level the playing field for small businesses who struggle to be able to offer robust benefit packages to their employees and compete with larger companies that can.
The future of Vermont depends on a healthy economy.
A strong economy provides jobs, lifts people out of poverty, and reduces the pressure on an already overburdened social services system.
With a virtually flat rate of growth, an aging population, fewer young people and young families in Vermont, we need to develop policies and practices that provide opportunities for our citizens which will in turn strengthen our economy.
A strong, universal paid family leave insurance program is a key part of building a Vermont that works for all of us. I am hopeful for the future of Vermont.
Vermonters across the state overwhelmingly agree that we all need paid family leave.
As a legislator, I’m looking forward to passing a strong bill this year that guarantees every Vermonter will have access to paid family leave.
Rep. Robin Scheu, Addison-1, Middlebury, Vermont.