Vermonters want to be able to heal and to be there for loved ones when they need care. Yet most face financial hardship as a result. Over the past several years, a broad coalition has been working with legislators to create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program. Seven states and Washington, D.C., have already enacted laws or implemented such programs. As Vermont looks toward the 2020 legislative session, it’s important to learn from the successes of these models.
All state family and medical leave insurance funds are publicly administered and use a social insurance model that pools small contributions so those on leave can receive wage replacement. These models give states the ability to set strong benefit parameters and keep administrative costs and benefit costs low by pooling the risk and resources.
Employees of businesses of all sizes must be included in this program. The majority of Vermont businesses are small, with 98.5% employing fewer than 100 employees, and these are the very businesses that often struggle to provide robust benefit packages. In order to ensure that Vermont’s small businesses can compete with larger employers and retain top talent, small employers need a level playing field.
Personal medical leave is also a crucial component. Currently, for those who are eligible for FMLA and take unpaid leave, more than half of those leaves are taken for one’s own serious illness. Access to wage replacement, should such an event arise, provides a safety net to help keep Vermonters afloat.
A statewide paid family leave insurance program for all working Vermonters will support the health, well-being and economic security of our children, families and small businesses and ensure that the next generation has a bright future. As we continue on the path to implement such a program, it’s crucial we look to successful programs across the country and enact a program that works.
Ashley Moore is the outgoing state director for the Main Street Alliance of Vermont and co-chair of the VT FaMLI Coalition.