DC Paid Family Leave Bill Goes to Final Vote on Tuesday

What you need to know about how a paid leave program could affect you

D.C. lawmakers are expected to vote Tuesday on what would be one of the most generous paid leave programs in the nation.

The D.C. Council will vote on a bill that would give anyone who works for a private employer in D.C. eight weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child, six weeks of paid leave to care for an ill family member and two weeks of personal sick leave.

On Monday, Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) and Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) presented an alternate plan that would change how costs are covered.

Here's what to know before the Council makes what is expected to be a tight vote:

What does the initial legislation propose?

The bill would grant full-time and part-time workers in D.C. eight weeks of paid leave to take care of newborn or adopted children, six weeks of paid leave to help ailing relatives and two weeks of personal sick leave. Both fathers and mothers would be eligible to take time off.

The legislation would be funded by a 0.62 percent increase to the payroll tax. The first taxes would not be collected until 2019, and the first benefits would not be paid out until early 2020. A new D.C. agency would administer the program.

Employees would be eligible to receive up to 90 percent of their pay, with a weekly cap of $1,000.

What's the alternate plan?

Cheh and Evans have an alternate bill that would require private employers to provide the specified amounts of time off. Businesses with 70 or fewer employees would be eligible for an annual tax credit of $200 per employee to ease the cost of compliance. Their plan would not create a new agency.

Would a D.C. paid leave law affect federal government workers?

No. The District cannot impose taxes on the federal government.

Would a D.C. paid leave law affect people who live in Maryland or Virginia but work in D.C.?

Yes, and opponents of the plan say that is unfair because these D.C. employees do not pay D.C. income taxes.

How has the D.C. Council previously voted on this bill?

The Council gave preliminary approval to the bill in an 11-2 vote earlier this month.

How much will this cost?

Cheh and Evans say their revised bill would cost the city an estimated $40 million per year, compared to $250 million for the current legislation.

What have businesses and nonprofits said?

On Monday, several businesses and nonprofit groups said they prefer a bill that would direct companies to provide the benefit without the tax.

“We just feel that we are in a much better position than the District government to determine how best and how effectively we get that paid leave to employees,” Solomon Keene of the Hotel Association of Washington said.

“Doesn't create more bureaucracy, which I think many of us in the D.C. business community are a little bit tired of,” Diane Gross of Cork Wine Bar said.

Supporters of paid family leave denounced the last-minute business bid to weaken the proposal.

“They're speaking in the best interest of small business owners, when actually what they’re doing is trying to find a way to pass a law that would be far more beneficial to large corporations,” said Michelle Sternthal of Main Street Alliance.

Once the D.C. Council makes the final vote, what happens?

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser would need to sign it. Bowser has repeatedly fought the existing version of the legislation, citing its cost.

She told The Washington Post in an interview Monday that the revised bill proposed by Cheh and Evans is "more likely to win my support."

“I can say this: If I was on the council, I’d be voting for it,” she told the Post.

She said on WAMU Radio last week that she opposed the employer tax, but she would not say whether she would veto it if it passes. 

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