April 14, 2022
Some days and weeks are joyful and promising. This is one, at least as to progress on one issue: paid leave.
In under a week’s time, policymakers in both Maryland and Delaware green-lighted paid family and medical leave programs, guaranteeing working people and businesses in their states a future with more economic stability, predictability and security. Paid leave protects the health and economic security of workers and families and contributes to stronger and more inclusive economies. Nationally, fewer than one-quarter of all workers have paid family leave and disparities in access by job and wage level have only grown more stark in recent years. That’s why action is essential.
Today, April 14th, the Delaware House of Representatives joined the Delaware Senate in approving Senate Bill 1, which ensures that most workers in Delaware will have access to up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave in a year at up to 80 percent of their usual wages to care for a new child, and up to 6 weeks within a two-year period to care for a loved one with a serious health condition, address their own serious health condition, or address the needs associated with a loved one’s military deployment. Governor John Carney supports the bill and is expected to sign it. Delaware’s program will begin to collect paid leave funds from workers and businesses in 2025 and begin paying benefits to eligible workers in 2026.
Delaware’s victory comes soon after legislative action in Maryland. On April 9th, the Maryland legislature overrode Governor Larry Hogan’s veto and established a statewide paid leave program. Maryland’s program will provide workers with up to 24 weeks of paid leave annually for multiple needs (or 12 weeks for one type of one need), at up to 90 percent of their usual wages, to care for a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition, address their own serious health condition, or deal with circumstances relating to family member’s military deployment or military-related serious health issue. Maryland’s program will begin collecting paid leave funds from workers and businesses in 2023 and begin paying benefits to workers in 2025.
Maryland and Delaware join nine other states and the District of Columbia in developing statewide programs that allow working people to care for themselves and their loved ones. The oldest of these programs – California’s – was passed 20 years ago this coming fall. These programs, including the two new ones in Maryland and Delaware, are designed as social insurance funds, with small premium contributions from workers, employers or both that result in guaranteed benefits for eligible workers with qualifying conditions.
The Time to Care campaign in Maryland, the Delaware Cares campaign and all of the organizations, individuals and small businesses affiliated with each effort deserve huge credit and thanks for the advocacy and organizing that led to these most recent victories, as do the lawmakers that fought hard and smartly for these family-sustaining policies.
Ultimately, every working person in the United States needs access to paid leave – a safeguard that would have prevented harm during the pandemic and is essential to the country's future. Passing national paid leave should be a must-do for anyone who claims to be interested in building a vibrant and inclusive labor force, supporting healthier, stronger and more secure families and helping small businesses to thrive. But, until Congress follows the lead of states, states will continue to innovate – showing that paid leave in the U.S. is feasible, valuable and badly needed, and motivating advocates, policymakers, working people and businesses to adopt national-level change.