- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2016

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson’s long-awaited revision of a paid family leave bill will include 11 weeks of leave for new parents and eight weeks of leave for caring for a sick relative. The legislation is expected to cost the District about $250 million a year.

The revised “Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015” has not been formally released, but a staffer for Mr. Mendelson described to The Washington Times on Monday details of the legislation, which includes a 0.62 percent payroll tax on nearly 8,000 city employers to fund the initiative.

Under the bill, workers earning less than 1.5 times the minimum wage would receive 90 percent of their wages. Those earning more than that would get 50 percent of their wages up to $1,000 per week.

The bill likely will see its first vote at the council’s Dec. 6 legislative meeting. But debate could come as early as Tuesday at the monthly mayor-council breakfast.

The legislation is a scaled-back version of a hotly contested measure introduced by council members David Grosso and Elissa Silverman that would have offered 16 weeks of paid leave for a variety of health-related reasons. Opponents said the unprecedented 16-week plan would cost too much and burden employers — especially in the restaurant industry — who operate on thin margins.

Still, with its 11 weeks of maternity/paternity leave, the revision would be the most generous program of its kind in the country.

Mr. Grosso, at-large independent, said Monday that the new plan upholds the spirit of what he was trying to do when he introduced the measure last year.

“Even revised, this legislation offers the most expansive paid leave benefit in the country,” Mr. Grosso said. “It puts workers in a better position to care for their families while providing a benefit that is not available anywhere else. That is something we should be very proud to vote for.”

Ms. Silverman, at-large independent, also said the revised plan would be a good thing for workers in the District, but she had some criticisms of the new legislation, which would deny paid leave for workers suffering from an illness themselves.

“The chairman’s proposal gives needed help to parents and family members, but it does not include self-care, leaving out, for example, the retail worker who told me in a hearing that she had to quit her job to make radiation and chemotherapy treatments,” said Ms. Silverman, who stopped short of saying she’d vote for the measure. “I look forward to working with the chairman and my colleagues to make sure that self-care is covered by the program.”

Under the bill, both parents would be able to take leave within a year of a child’s birth or adoption. The bill would apply to full-time and part-time workers in the city regardless of where they reside, but federal workers would not be eligible.

The plan will take some time to get up and running, as the D.C. government shoulders the burden of issuing wage replacements. It could take more than a year and as much as $40 million for the city to devise an online portal to manage leave requests. After that, the city must fill its payment fund with taxes for a year so requests can be fulfilled as soon as the program starts.

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