While campaigning, Donald Trump promised to tackle paid family leave—but as the plan takes shape, is it something most American families would support?

By Lisa Milbrand
February 12, 2018

Paid family leave was one of President Donald Trump's more concrete campaign promises—and it's a popular policy, with a Pew Research study showing that 82 percent of people support paid leave for new moms, and 69 percent for dads as well. But despite its popularity, it wasn't a high-priority policy in his first year in office.

New moms get guaranteed paid time off in almost every country on the planet—except New Guinea and in most of the U.S. (If you're lucky enough to live in New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and New York, you're already eligible for paid leave.) The Family and Medical Leave Act, which is currently 25 years old, allows parents up to 12 weeks off to care for a new baby or an ailing family member, it's generally unpaid—which puts it out of reach for many families who can't afford that loss of income.

But there's reason to believe that a paid family leave may be on the horizon, as a new bill is being spearheaded by Trump's daughter-slash-adviser Ivanka and Senator Marco Rubio. Their plan? Sacrifice a little retirement time on the tail end in order to be covered now. The proposal, according to Politico, would require families to wait longer to enjoy Social Security benefits, based on the amount of paid family leave they take decades before. So if you take six weeks off to take care of your newborn, you'd have to wait six weeks after you turn 67 to collect your Social Security. But experts suggest we kick the tires on this plan.

"This proposal is not just inadequate, it's also harmful," says Lindsay Farrell, the state director for the Connecticut Working Families Party, who is currently spearheading a bill that would provide paid family leave for parents in her state. "The Trump/Rubio program would provide benefits that are far too little for most families to live on. It wouldn't meet the needs of working-class families, and it would only reinforce the caregiving disparities between women and men. Working families need to be able to rely on paid family leave, and also on Social Security, which provides a bare minimum for a secure retirement."

The Trump/Rubio plan is not the only paid leave option out there: Lawmakers have also started floating options to source funding for paid family leave, including hiking payroll taxes and putting that into a personal paid leave account. And still, others say that a provision in the new tax bill that offers incentives to businesses who offer their employees paid leave is more than adequate. And of course, the states themselves could choose to legislate in paid family leave, as New York recently did.

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Perhaps the state paid leave programs could serve as a model for the national policy, as Farrell explains that New Jersey and California are already looking to expand their programs due to their success. "It's been working great for millions of families. Paid leave has improved health outcomes for children, and it's given fathers more of a role in caregiving for their children. It has made it easier for workers to provide for their families and rely less on public assistance. Businesses have benefited from improved retention, productivity, and morale."

Want to help make paid family leave happen? Farrell suggests letting your state and local representatives know that it's an important issue for you. "Politicians need to hear from us about how important this issue is, and about how important it is to do it universally and sustainably," she says. "Call your legislators, your governor, your members of Congress and your Senators. And if you don't like what you hear from your politicians, consider running for office yourself!"