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February 8 2018

Republicans weigh Social Security paid leave plan

The Hill
featuring Carrie L. Lukas

A few Senate Republicans are weighing a voluntary paid leave proposal that would allow parents to collect Social Security benefits early if they agree to defer their retirement benefits later in life to offset the costs.

GOP Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Joni Ernst (Iowa) expressed support for the idea, provided by the conservative Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), calling it “novel” and “creative.” But the lawmakers noted that a formal piece of legislation still needs to be crafted.

“As you might imagine, turning good ideas into good legislation takes time,” Lee said in a call with reporters Wednesday. “Getting this right means asking the right questions and then figuring out how to answer them.”

According to IWF’s six-page proposal, parents could take up to 12 weeks and receive on average 45 percent of their pay in a Social Security parental benefit that’s calculated using the same formula as Social Security disability benefits.

The IWF estimates the average wage worker would receive $1,175 per month.

Lee said lawmakers are trying to figure out how to structure benefits so they are delivered to families when they need them, how the federal law should interact with state paid leave laws and how to keep the law from hastening the Social Security Trust Fund's 2034 insolvency date.

In a statement, read by his legislative director, Rubio said a paid parental leave proposal that increases family flexibility in a fiscally responsible way like the IWF’s proposal “would not only represent conservatism meeting the challenges of the 21st century, it would remain true to Social Security's fundamental principle of providing assistance to dependents in our care.”

Paid family leave proposals have been swirling on Capitol Hill for years, but the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation without a federal paid leave policy.

Democratic Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Bobby Scott (Va.) were quick the criticize the proposal.

In statements, DeLauro called the plan “woefully insufficient,” while Scott expressed fears about shortchanging Social Security benefits for seniors.

“Workers should not have to permanently cut their Social Security retirement benefits in order to spend time with a newborn child, and any paid leave plan that reflects the needs of working people and families must address the need to deal with a personal or family member’s serious illness,” DeLauro said.

“Legislation that reflects the Independent Women’s Forum plan to raid Social Security to pay for parental leave benefits would jeopardize workers’ future retirement security and would hurt women, low-wage workers and workers of color the most,” she added.

DeLauro has introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, a companion bill to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) legislation in the Senate. The bill calls for a 0.2 percent employee payroll tax and a 0.2 percent employer tax to fund 12 weeks of paid leave during which workers would earn 66 percent of their monthly wages.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, which supports this proposal, the average worker would pay less than $1.50 per week in new taxes.

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IIndependent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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