Joni Ernst, Mike Lee Introduce Bill to ‘Modernize’ American Paid Family Leave Policies

Paid Family Leave
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SEAN MORAN

Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced legislation Tuesday that would expand Americans’ access to paid family leave and help families better balance work and family.

Ernst and Lee, two conservative senators, introduced the CRADLE Act, which would allow parents to obtain one, two, or three months’ leave by  postponing activating their Social Security benefits by two, four, or six months. The two senators contend that the legislation would allow every new mom and dad the flexibility to stay home and raise their newborn during the critical first months of childrearing without creating a government program or adding to the country’s deficit.

Expectant parents can fill out a form to inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) that they would like to take paid leave before their expected birth or adoption and then after the birth or adoption, start taking benefits after the parents apply for the baby’s social security number.

The senators’ contend that the legislation, in comparison to other proposals, the legislation is revenue-neutral, optional, and flexible for those who decide to opt into the program.

Sen. Ernst said in a statement on Tuesday that America needs to “modernize” its paid family leave policy to allow for Americans to raise their families without creating a new “entitlement or mandate.” The Iowa Republican explained:

It’s past time we modernize our family leave policies to reflect the evolving needs of today’s workforce and to reduce the barriers that pose challenges for parents balancing family and work. Millions of working moms and dads in Iowa, and across the country, face huge hurdles in taking time off to spend with their newborns. As a mother, I understand how important it is for children to bond with their parents in the first precious few weeks after birth. Our proposal is a path forward for a budget neutral paid leave option that gives parents greater flexibility without imposing a new government entitlement or mandate.

To ensure that people do not abuse the program, one must have American citizenship or lawful permanent resident status, be the parent of the new child, had gainful employment before applying for paid family leave benefits, and plan to stay at the same principle residence for at least half of the year following the birth or adoption.

An American applying for paid family leave benefits would recieve a proportional payment relevant to their salary. As one primer from Ernst and Lee’s offices explained:

While the specific parental leave benefit amount would depend on the parent’s past earnings, a single parent making $1,301 a month
after federal income and FICA taxes are withheld (that is the current official poverty line) would receive a $960 monthly benefit from Social Security, roughly a 74 percent wage replacement.

Lee called families the “bedrock” of American society and suggested that for millions of citizens to obtain the American dream, they need to enact new legislation that would allow for couples to raise their offspring optimally.

“Families are the bedrock of our society. If young people can’t afford to marry and start a family, then the American dream literally has no future,” Sen. Lee said. “We need to make sure our existing social insurance programs are doing all they can to work for working families. The CRADLE Act will give working families the flexibility they need to make sure Social Security is working for them.”

The legislation arises from meetings in February between White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Marco Rubio, Ernst, Lee, and Todd Young (R-IN), who have all worked on a pathway forward on paid family leave.

The paid family leave bill also arises as Trump becomes the first president of either party to endorse a paid family leave program in his budget.

“I am also proud to be the first President to include in my budget a plan for nationwide paid family leave—so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child,” Trump said in his State of the Union address.

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