A Push For Paid Family Leave

By Danae King and Colin Campbell
The Baltimore Sun.

BALTIOMRE

Shellyann Smith took 12 weeks off for the births of each of her two children, and got paid for it.

Smith, a 32-year-old customer service and sales specialist at a Bank of America call center in suburban Baltimore, says her employer’s policy of granting 12 weeks of paid maternity leave meant she “didn’t have to think about work or worry about my job being there when I got back.”

A growing movement of workers, and their supporters in Washington, wants to make the benefit universal.

Democrats in Congress have proposed a fund that would pay a worker up to two-thirds of his or her monthly wages for 12 weeks to care for a new child or an elderly family member.

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have expanded their state disability insurance programs to cover family leave. The Obama administration has offered grants for other states to study how they might also offer the benefit.

In Maryland, Del. Heather Mizeur proposed a paid family leave program modeled on California’s during her unsuccessful campaign this year for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

In California, a portion of the state payroll tax paid by employees goes into a fund. Eligible workers on family leave can draw on that fund to cover a portion of their salary.

Del. Ariana Kelly says she wants to bring the idea to the House floor.

“The birth of a child is one of the leading causes for a poverty spell,” Kelly says. “For all types of families it’s incredibly important.”

Jerid Kurtz, a spokesman for Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, the Democratic nominee for governor, directed a reporter to campaign materials in which Brown speaks of extending family leave opportunities to more Marylanders and working with “stakeholders” to “identify a paid family leave benefit in the future.”

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