Sen. Rubio Introduces Paid Family Leave Bill

August 8, 2018

On Aug. 2, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) introduced legislation that would allow new parents to finance their paid leave by drawing from their Social Security benefits early. Sen. Rubio’s bill is modeled after a policy paper from the conservative group Independent Women’s Forum released in January.

Under the proposal titled the Economic Security for New Parents Act, those who choose to withdraw from their Social Security benefits early will be able to get at least two months of leave after the arrival of a child by birth or adoption.

According to Sen. Rubio’s bill, a new parent that elects to participate would receive an amount equal to three months of what they would get in Social Security benefits. Households that receive the benefit can use it however they want as long as they take at least two months of leave, and spouses in two-parent households would be able to transfer the benefits to each other.

Sen. Rubio’s office said that most parents making about $70,000 per year would be able to have the benefit cover more than 70 percent of their wages for two months, and that many parents on the lower end of the income spectrum would be able to use the benefit amount to help finance longer-term parental leave. Parents are eligible to receive the benefit if they meet certain work-history requirements and stay-at-home parents who have past substantial work history would be eligible to withdraw form their retirement savings.

The bill, however, leaves out those who need to care for sick family members or tend to their own serious health issues. Approximately 75 percent of those who take unpaid time off through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) use the time for those purposes. All six states that have paid-leave policies include provisions for this type of family leave.

The bill includes a three-year expiration date, which Sen. Rubio said was included because the bill would not be scored accurately by the Congressional Budget Office without a sunset. Yet, Sen. Rubio said his goal is to create a permanent policy.

Republicans have been traditionally been reluctant to push for federal paid family leave programs due to concerns about increasing taxes and the size of government. But more recently, Republicans have been expressing interest in taking on the issue. The tax reform law President Trump signed in December 2017 provides tax credits to companies that provide paid leave to their employers. And paid family leave has also been an issue stressed by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser. However, she has also acknowledged that a bill on the paid leave issue is unlikely to become law this year.

Sen. Rubio spoke about his bill at a press conference with Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), who plans to introduce similar legislation in the House in September.