Highlights repeated failures to provide help to working families

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), New Jersey’s only member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, spoke out in vehement support of strengthening paid family and medical leave policies offered to working American families. Rep. Pascrell cited the struggles of Lauren Agoratus of New Jersey, whose family was nearly bankrupted by the lack of access to paid leave. Pascrell also hit back at Republicans suggestions that any parental leave be funded through cuts to Social Security.

“Finland offers 161 weeks of paid leave, South Korea 65 weeks, Canada 51 weeks, the United Kingdom 39 weeks, Ireland 26 weeks, Israel 15 weeks. America? Zip, Zero weeks,” said Rep. Pascrell in prepared remarks. “We know that comprehensive paid family and medical leave policies are working. Since our last hearing on this topic, more states have decided to implement programs. Now is the time for us to follow their lead and act. I’m proud to cosponsor Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s bill, the FAMILY Act, the only comprehensive paid family and medical leave proposal in front of us today.”

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Rep. Pascrell is an original cosponsor of H.R. 1185, the FAMILY Act, which would provide workers with comprehensive paid family and medical leave. The bill would create an affordable and self-sustaining national family and medical leave insurance fund to provide workers with a portion of their wages for a limited period of time (up to 60 workdays, or 12 weeks in a year) to address their own serious health condition, including pregnancy or childbirth; to deal with the serious health condition of a parent, spouse, domestic partner or child; to care for a new child; and/or for specific military caregiving and leave purposes.

Rep. Pascrell is a supporter of H.R. 3298, the Child Care Quality and Access Act. The legislation, which was passed by the Ways and Means Committee in June 2019, would increase funding by $1 billion for the Child Care Entitlement to States (CCES) – the mandatory component of the Child Care and Development Block Grant program. CCES directly appropriates $2.9 billion in annual mandatory child care funding for states to use with their own child care systems and $162.4 million to New Jersey. It was last reauthorized in 2014.

Pascrell voted in favor of H.R. 3845, the Economic Mobility Act, which included a provision that would make the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit fully refundable to ensure it is available to low- and middle-income families with a lower or no tax liability. The bill also doubles the amount of child and dependent care expenses that are eligible for the credit to $6,000 for one qualifying individual and $12,000 for two or more qualifying individuals. With Pascrell’s support, the legislation was approved by the Ways and Means Committee in June 2019.

Rep. Pascrell’s full comments can be viewed here, and the text of his prepared remarks are provided below.

 

Rep. Pascrell Remarks for the House Ways and Means Hearing on Legislative Proposals for Paid Family and Medical Leave

Today is January 28, 2020. The year is 2020, and the United States still does not guarantee paid family and medical leave.

How does this compare to other OECD countries? Finland offers 161 weeks of paid leave, South Korea 65 weeks, Canada 51 weeks, the United Kingdom 39 weeks, Ireland 26 weeks, Israel 15 weeks. America? Zip, Zero weeks. Among our industrialized brethren, every country except America offers paid family and medical leave. We are dead last. This is an international embarrassment.

Only three states have implemented laws to fill in this shameful void. My home state of New Jersey is one that enacted a paid leave law, first in 2009 and strengthened last year.

For Lauren Agoratus from New Jersey, paid leave was not available when her daughter Stephanie was born with a kidney condition. Lauren and her husband almost lost their home and ended up $20,000 in debt because of Stephanie’s health issues.

In 2011, Stephanie needed a kidney transplant. Thanks to New Jersey’s law, Lauren could take paid leave to care for Stephanie without losing her job or her life savings.

Millions of Americans today are being squeezed by unimaginable daily life costs. Combined with the specter of unexpected medical expenses or the cost of caring for an aging family member, our nation’s failure to provide any amount of guaranteed paid leave is like a straitjacket on those trying to start families and build lives for themselves.

Even the United States Postal Service employees who deliver and collect our mail in rain, sleet, ice, and snow are not entitled to paid leave. These dedicated employees must take unpaid leave to care for a new child or tend to an aging family member.

Unpaid leave nearly bankrupted Lauren Agoratus and her family when Stephanie was born. Her case is tragically common. The Republican proposals on the table before us today would only hurt people like Lauren and her hardworking family even further.

Financing parental leave through cuts to Social Security presents a false choice between paid leave and retirement. Paid leave tax credits are insufficient because they are only available to employees who win the employer lottery and hope their employer will do the right thing.  And borrowing on a future Child Tax Credit is not paid leave at all. These so-called solutions are completely insufficient.

We know that comprehensive paid family and medical leave policies are working. Since our last hearing on this topic, more states have decided to implement programs. Now is the time for us to follow their lead and act. I’m proud to cosponsor Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro’s bill, the FAMILY Act, the only comprehensive paid family and medical leave proposal in front of us today.