- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2017

The District will soon offer the most generous paid family and medical leave in the country after Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday declined to veto legislation that was approved by the D.C. Council in December.

Miss Bowser had been against the measure, which she said benefited out-of-state residents more than those living in the city. But the council passed the measure with a veto-proof majority and the mayor decided to let the bill become law without her signature. The law is still subject to a 30-day congressional review period.

The Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 will provide eight weeks of leave for caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, six weeks for tending to a sick relative and two weeks for taking care of personal medical needs.

The program applies to any worker employed by a private business in the District. Those who live in the city, but are employed elsewhere are not covered.

In a letter to the Council provided to The Washington Times Wednesday night, Miss Bowser, a Democrat, outlined her “grave” concerns. She said she supports paid leave in general, but worries that law will be too expensive for the city and burdensome on local businesses.

She said the program “is not truly universal because it does not cover D.C. residents who work outside of the city or who work for the federal government.”

Of the District’s 531,999 workers, about 195,000 also live in the city. Employment statistics show that 201,981 live in Maryland and 134,192 in Virginia, meaning nearly two-thirds of the city’s workforce would receive and likely spend paid-leave benefits outside the District.

The program is estimated to cost $250 million a year and will be funded via a 0.62 percent payroll tax on about 8,000 city businesses. The taxes collected will fill a fund administered by the city rather than by the businesses themselves.

The District will next have to create a new agency to collect the tax and administer the benefit. The program is not expected to start paying out leave until at least 2020.

The District joins California, Rhode Island and New Jersey in operating state-based programs. The state of New York plans to start up its program in 2018.

Proponents of the program said Thursday that even without Miss Bowser’s signature, the measure is a win for workers in the city.

Council member Elissa Silverman, who spearheaded the effort, said Thursday the program will help families weather life events without having to worry about their financial well-being.

“This is only the beginning; there is much work to be done to implement the legislation and make it truly a benefit to our workers, our businesses, and our city,” Ms. Silverman, at-large independent said.

And D.C. Paid Leave Coalition Campaign Manager Joanna Blotner said the benefit will ease the minds of workers in the city.

“Today, thousands of D.C. families and businesses are now one step closer to the dignity and peace of mind that comes with paid leave insurance,” Ms. Blotner said. “Our coalition is eager to work with the mayor and her administration to effectively and efficiently implement the legislation as soon as it passes congressional review.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide