In Budget Advocacy, Just Recovery DC, Paid Family Leave, Washington, DC

The DC Paid Leave Campaign, representing a diverse coalition of local businesses, community institutions, service providers, and advocacy organizations, commends the DC Council’s vote to strengthen and expand the DC Paid Family Leave program. The changes to this effective and life-changing program stand to benefit half a million workers and their families.

By rejecting the Mayor’s proposed tax cut and restoring the payroll tax rate to 0.62%, the Council is able to fund critical changes to DC’s paid family & medical leave (PFML) program. Our coalition strongly supports the following changes, included in the FY22 DC Budget and Budget Support Act:

  • Expanding Personal Medical leave from two to six weeks in fiscal year 2022 (for workers who take time off for their medical needs)
  • Expanding access – especially for the District’s most vulnerable workers – and enabling workers to take the leave to which they are entitled, by:
    • Strengthening job protection by conforming with federal FMLA, so workers who return to their job after the pandemic have the job protection necessary to take leave
    • Removing the 7-day waiting period before a worker can access benefits– on a one-year trial basis – and allowing workers to apply for benefits retroactively (within a reasonable period after the leave event has occurred)
    • Expanding the period of reported wages used to determine benefits, for one year post-pandemic. By enabling the program to calculate benefits based on the highest 4 quarters of income over the past 10 quarters (instead of 5), this change will mean that workers who lost income during the pandemic will still receive paid leave benefits.
  • Planning for future expansion of PFML benefits to twelve weeks for each of Parental, Family Caregiving, and Personal Medical leave – based on the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s future projections, while maintaining the 0.62% tax rate.

Jaime Contreras, a Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, the nation’s largest property service workers union, with over 175,000 members in 11 states including over 20,000 Black and Immigrant essential workers in the D.C. area and Baltimore, MD, made the following statement: “Essential workers are grateful for D.C. Council’s decision to strengthen the Paid Family & Medical Leave program by addressing long-standing health, economic and racial disparities that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Expanding medical leave from two to six weeks is a great example of how cities and states can and should ensure that all workers have the support they need to care for themselves and the people they love.”

Nikola Nable-Juris, Staff Attorney at First Shift Justice Project, a nonprofit organization helping working parents in low-wage jobs assert their workplace rights to prevent job loss, said: “Low-income workers – especially mothers and women of color who have been hardest hit by the pandemic – will directly benefit from these changes to DC’s Paid Family & Medical Leave program. We have seen time and time again how barriers to access have blocked our city’s most vulnerable workers from the paid leave benefits they deserve. These much-needed changes will allow more workers to receive benefits when caring for themselves and their families.”

The DC Paid Family Leave Campaign would like to thank Councilmembers Elissa Silverman and Phil Mendelson for their leadership and for the strong support from many Councilmembers to protect and expand the DC Paid Family Leave program. We call on the DC Council to follow up with this vote during the second budget vote on August 3rd. Especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, no one should have to lose their job or income in order to care for themselves or the people they love.

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