Infant. Credit: Wikipedia.
President Joe Biden’s massive federal spending package for social programs left out 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, a key initiative that many Democrats had pushed to provide financial support to new parents and caregivers.
In Florida, removing the provision was a disappointment among healthcare advocacy groups.
“Paid leave was an especially devastating provision to lose, but we understand the need for compromise,” Scott Darius, executive director Florida Voices for Health, told the Florida Phoenix. He added that the Biden plan included other initiatives.
“The framework still goes a long way to invest in people, including expanding health coverage to half a million low-income Floridians,” Darius said.
The federal spending package initially included 12 weeks of paid time off for workers to take care of their newborns, or those caring for a sick relative, as previously reported by the Phoenix. But that was trimmed down to four weeks and then entirely removed from the final package.
According to an NPR report, the United States is one of a handful of countries without a national paid leave program. However, federal workers are granted 12 weeks of paid parental leave through the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.
The Biden plan, now slimmed down, represents “groundbreaking investments in the nation’s families, and we strongly urge Florida’s congressional delegation to support the framework and move it forward,” Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute, in an email to the Phoenix.
“We are disappointed, however, that paid family leave was not included, though it is long overdue in the United States,” Knight said. “A national paid family leave program is critical for workers to get and keep jobs when they need time to care for a new child or a sick loved one.”
Knight added: “We also urge Congress to address paid family leave in future legislation.”
Other advocates in Florida and state lawmakers weighed in on the new spending plan.
State Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat representing part of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, said via Twitter:
“Providing access to paid family leave has more positive impact on the economy as a whole, than its positive impact on any business. The last thing we should do is add guilt, fear, and financial hardship on working parents as they try to do what’s right – while keeping their job.”
Despite the elimination of paid leave, the Biden plan “will be life-changing for millions of Floridians by cutting healthcare costs across the board,” said Josh Weierbach, executive director of Florida Watch, in a written statement.
Biden’s $1.75 trillion spending plan released Thursday included a variety of investments, including a new, six-year program to guarantee free preschool for 3- and-4-year-olds, affordable housing, affordable health care and other social programs.
The Phoenix wrote earlier that another initiative has been on the chopping block — funding for two years of tuition-free community college.
The Biden plan was supposed to ensure that “first-time students and workers wanting to reskill” could enroll in a community college to earn a degree or credential for free. Students could use the benefit over three years and even four years, depending on the circumstances.
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