Workers in California just got a boost in Paid Family Leave benefits

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill Monday to bolster the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program for all California workers.

"We want to do as much as we can, in a creative way, to make sure that everybody has a decent life," the governor said before signing Assembly Bill 908. The measure passed out of the state Legislature with bipartisan support. 

The author of the bill, Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez of Echo Park, calls his measure a "lifeline" for families across California. “As a child, I spent seven days in the hospital with pneumonia and nearly bankrupted my family” because of lost wages and missed work, Gomez said.

The assemblyman's bill will boost PFL available to workers who take time off to care for ill family members or bond with a new child.

Before today's bill signing, California workers could have 55% of their wages reimbursed for up to six weeks.

Starting January 1, 2018...

-- If you earn up to 33% of the state's average weekly wage ($1,120.67)

  • PFL wage replacement will go from 55% to 70% of normal earnings

-- If you earn more than 33% of the state's average weekly wage ($1,120.67)

  • PFL wage replacement will go from 55% to 60% of normal earnings

-- The one-week waiting period for PFL claims has been eliminated

-- The 6-week period for PFL benefits will not change under the new law

New York's state lawmakers also recently approved a strengthened paid family leave law, which gives reimbursement to workers for up to 12 weeks.

Originally, Gomez's bill expanded PFL to 10 weeks. It was reduced to 6 weeks, the author said, to be more financially viable for workers who pay into the program.  

"If you increase it too much, more money comes out of the workers' pockets to fund the program. We didn't want that," the assemblyman said. "So, we had to make a decision: do we increase the wage replacement or do we increase the weeks?"

Gomez said, in the case of New York, you can offer a worker 12 weeks off -- but if they're being offered about 50% of their normal wages, Gomez said no one will use the program.

"That's what (California) learned over the last ten years, if it's too low nobody uses the program because they're already struggling on 100% of their salary," he said.

Gomez said a 12-week PFL program is possible for California, but it would take an incremental approach to offset the cost on workers. "Once (the new program) settles in, we could probably go for eight weeks or 10 weeks, but we got to be careful with that."

The assemblyman said he's learned fiscal prudence from Gov. Brown.

The governor remarked on Monday, "We do have these two polar positions: pure market, which only knows efficiency, and then community, which knows justice, and fraternity and a sense of empathy. Now it isn't all empathy, it's not all market -- it's both combined. And I would say we never quite get it right because the market has its ravages, but we all live with the benefits. So, let's take the good with the bad. Here today, we're going to add to the good and that's really helpful."

Copyright 2016 KXTV


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