OLYMPIA, WA: One-time start-up costs and initial benefits for family leave insurance will be paid from the state’s general fund, and the Employment Security Department will administer the program, if legislators adopt the final recommendations of Washington’s Joint Legislative Task Force on Family Insurance in 2008.
At a press conference sponsored by the Washington Family Leave Coalition, legislators and family leave advocates were upbeat about the task force’s final decisions.
Representative Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), co-chair of the task force, opened by commenting: “Last spring, our state took a major step forward in updating workplace policies to fit the reality of today’s working families by enacting a Family Leave Insurance program. The Task Force has reached some major bipartisan agreements and succeeded in answering the concerns raised in the House during the session.”
She continued, “We spent a good deal of our time today finalizing the list of efficiencies the task force will recommend to the Legislature, which will not only reduce administrative costs, but also make it easier for both businesses and workers to adjust to the new program.”
Task force co-chair Senator Karen D. Keiser (33rd District-Kent) said she felt the task force had “listened to all sides, accommodated the needs of families and businesses, and worked with the agencies to develop the most efficient and effective way to administer the program.”
She continued, “We’ve agreed that start-up costs and initial funding should come from the General Fund surplus, rather than borrowing from other funds. This approach lowers costs, and fulfills the state’s obligation to provide amply for the education of all children, by assuring all children time with their first and best teachers – their parents.”
Representative Steve Conway (District-Lakewood/Parkland) commented, “I chaired the subcommittee that included business and family advocates, to make sure this works well for both businesses and workers and their families. I see more support emerging as we have worked with them to address their concerns. This program needs to be clear and simple or both employers and workers, and I think this task force has been very constructive in accomplishing that.”
Washington’s family leave insurance law includes 10 specific protections for employers, such as requiring that family leave run concurrently with Family and Medical Leave Act benefits. Nationally, 8 percent of private sector workers receive paid family leave. Fewer than half (46%) of Washington’s employers offer paid sick leave, and 1 in 4 do not offer paid vacation to their full-time employees. Most part-time workers get no paid leave at all.
With one expectant mother in attendance and a row of colorfully painted baby “onesies” as a backdrop, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director of MomsRising.org and Family Leave Advocate member of the task force, presented a letter to legislators signed by dozens of Washington business owners in support of family leave insurance.