Kent's Keiser proposes expanding state Family Medical Leave Insurance

State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent. - COURTESY PHOTO
State Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

State Sen. Karen Keiser-D, Kent, has introduced a Family Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) bill that promotes the health and well-being of children, seniors and working families.

Senate Bill 5292 would provide partial paid leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, according to a Washington Senate Democrats media release.

The Federal Family Medical Leave Act, which provides only unpaid leave, will mark its 20th anniversary next month. Over the past two decades millions have not been able to afford to take unpaid family leave.

“Too many Washington workers face an impossible choice: return to work, sacrificing family health and well-being, or not be able to pay their mortgages,” said Keiser in the media release. “Anyone can be faced with an accident or emergency and need time off work to care for themselves or their family. Equally important, new parents need time to bond with a new baby.

“It’s appalling that Republicans are proposing legislation to actually repeal our state’s Family Medical Leave Insurance Act. At a time when middle class working families are struggling, it makes no sense to cut this benefit.”

A hearing on SB 5159, to repeal Washington’s FMLI law, is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 28, 1:30 p.m., in the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee.

In 2007, Washington established a FMLI program to provide parents of newborn or newly adopted children up to five weeks of paid leave. The new FMLI law’s implementation was delayed until 2015.

SB 5292 expands and adapts the 2007 program to better serve workers, families, and businesses.

Key elements of SB 5292 include:

• Leave: Up to 12 weeks to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or sick family member — up to 12 weeks for the worker’s own serious health condition

• Benefits: 2/3 of usual weekly pay, up to $1,000 per week ($640 for an average worker)

• Premiums: Calculated as a percentage of worker’s pay, shared by employees and employers approximately $1 a week for $50,000 income

• Eligibility: Workers will be eligible for benefits after working and paying premiums for 680 hours

Family leave benefits would begin in October 2015. Premiums would start in July 2014 to build up the fund, with workers and employers each paying 1 percent of pay, or a little under $1 per week for the average $50,000 earner. When disability benefits are added in 2016, premiums would rise to an average of about $2 per week, modeled after successful programs in California and New Jersey.

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