The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration today announced that the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Montana and Rhode Island will receive one-time, competitive grants to study the feasibility of developing and implementing statewide paid family and medical leave programs. The states’ governors and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray applied for the grants, with support from local organizations.
“These grants signal a real commitment from the Labor Department, and state and local leaders and advocates to find concrete, innovative ways to ensure more people in this country have access to the paid family and medical leave they need,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “This is an exciting and welcome step toward the day when no worker has to choose between caring for a loved one and a paycheck.”
The grants, which total $500,000, were made available through an executive action announced in conjunction with the White House Summit on Working Families in June. According to the White House, the selection process was designed to prioritize states that could “demonstrate commitment to building a knowledge base needed to implement paid leave programs” and “present clearly articulated strategies for leveraging this research to do so.”
The four jurisdictions’ proposals and grant sizes vary. D.C. was awarded $96,281 to analyze the economic impact, financing, and costs and benefits of enacting a paid family leave program. Massachusetts will receive $117,651 to model key technical aspects of possible state paid family and medical leave programs. Montana will receive $124,651 to determine the feasibility of enacting its own paid family leave program, and to conduct public opinion research. And Rhode Island was awarded $161,417 to analyze the effectiveness and awareness of its new paid family leave insurance program, which went into effect this year.
Paid family leave insurance programs have covered workers in California since 2004 and New Jersey since 2009. Rhode Island implemented its program, which is similar, in 2014. These programs are funded through small payroll contributions and provide workers with a portion of their wages for up to six weeks while they care for a family member or a new child. They were built off of existing temporary disability insurance programs, which are also in place in Hawaii, New York and Puerto Rico.
“The studies made possible by these grants tap into a powerful body of evidence from existing state programs and employer policies that shows paid leave is good for workers, families, businesses and economies,” Ness added. “We commend D.C., Massachusetts, Montana and Rhode Island, as well as a number of other states that sought this funding, for their leadership in pursuing these grants. Progress at the state and local levels has long paved the way for the national policy change the country needs.”
Just 12 percent of the U.S. workforce has access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent has personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability insurance program. The National Partnership leads a broad-based coalition of organizations pushing for family friendly workplace policies, including paid family and medical leave, at the federal level and provides technical, policy, legal, strategic and communications assistance to state and local campaigns.