Vermont coalition unites behind stronger paid family leave legislation

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MONTPELIER,VT- A coalition of businesses, interfaith groups and advocates is calling on the Vermont legislature to support changes to the statewide paid family leave program.

The Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Coalition, also known as FaMLI, says proposed changes to H. 107 would provide 12 weeks of full paid leave for Vermonters to care for a newborn, and up eight weeks to recover from a long-term illness or to help a family member recover from a serious illness or injury.

The measure would amend the state’s existing parental and family leave program to make it applicable to more businesses. Morgan Nichols of Main Street Alliance of Vermont says lawmakers should ensure a program that works for all Vermonters.

“Including guaranteed personal medical leave, an equitable bonding provision available to both parents and to keep the program viable and sustainable through public administration,” she said.

Some advocates say the existing version of the bill needs strengthening.

Michelle Fay, executive director of Voices for Vermont Children, would like to see some changes. She says the current version of H.107 discourages the second parent, usually men, from benefiting.

“Voices and our partners in the amily coalition urge the legislature to provide very care giver dedicated benefits to ensure equitable access to paid leave,” she said

Business owner Randy George believes the current bill should be universal and that every working Vermonter should be eligible.

“A bill that does not automatically include every working Vermonter is a bill that will exacerbate the qualities that we already suffer from in this state,” said George.

Randy George , owner of Red Hen Bakery, said one of his employees is suffering from colon cancer. He said the employee is working as much as he can because any day he misses he only gets 60 percent of his wages. If he could receive 90 percent wage replacement he would be able to focus on his health.

“This would obviously be a better outcome for him, but also for our business, the healthcare industry and the economy in general,” said George.

Eight states and Washington D.C have laws or implemented statewide paid family and medical leave programs.

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