Senator Marco Rubio’s New Parents Act of 2021 would enable new parents to receive up to three months of parental leave in exchange for either delaying or temporarily reducing their social security benefits after retirement to make up for those payments. This plan would make an existing entitlement program more flexible and help parents who need additional support, without disrupting existing private leave programs or adding new burdens to other taxpayers or our national debt.

But one critic from the People’s Policy Project claimed that if someone who takes advantage of this plan dies before retirement age, their estate or surviving spouse would have to pay back their parental benefits. Is this true?

“In Rubio’s bill, when someone dies before reaching old age, all of the parental benefits they received during their life are deemed overpayments and the SSA makes their estate pay them back.”
People’s Policy Project

Mostly false or misleading. Significant errors or omissions. Mostly make believe.

This claim is unfounded. 

In analyzing the New Parents Act of 2021, the Social Security Administration provided estimates on this plan and reported that instead of a one-to-one ratio of taking parental leave and delaying retirement age or reducing their benefit for a set period of time, the retirement age would be increased by twice the months of parental leave taken (or “parents would have their monthly Social Security old-age worker, spouse, or survivor benefit reduced by a specified percentage to be determined by the Commissioner, for each of the first 60 months of such benefit receipt”). 

While it is not specifically spelled out, this clearly makes up for any individuals who might pass away before repaying their benefits. Similar to the calculation made for loans, the “payback” period is prorated not only to make up for things like interest, but also to cover those who pass away and thus do not have the opportunity to pay it back those benefits. 

In short, the vast majority of people who will reduce or delay benefits due to taking parental leave through the New Parents Act of 2021 will simply make up the shortfall created by early deaths by paying slightly more than our specific requirement. Any claim that surviving family members would have to pay a lump sum to repay any “overpayment” by the SSA due to this program is unsupported by any facts.   

To learn more, read How to Talk About: Paid Leave.