Proposal at DC Council Would Give Workers 11 Weeks Paid Family Leave

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson plans to propose a family leave bill that would provide up to 11 weeks of paid leave to workers in D.C.

Mendelson told News4 he has distributed highlights of the proposal to his Council staff and planned to brief Mayor Muriel Bowser soon.

Bowser and Mendelson have argued publicly about the proposal in the past. She issued a statement late Monday, expressing concern:

"The Mayor looks forward to reviewing Chairman Mendelson's full proposal once it is released to the public, however, without the full details she remains concerned that the legislation does not go far enough in putting D.C. families first," the statement reads. "This is about fairness, and if we are going to raise a quarter of a billion dollars in new taxes each year, then D.C. families should be the primary beneficiaries."

Mendelson’s new plan, which appears to have enough support to gain Council approval, would provide up to 11 weeks off for new parents and up to 8 weeks off for workers who need time to care for a family member. The original proposal provided up to 16 weeks paid leave.

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

Employees of the federal government would not be covered, nor would D.C. government employees. Workers at all other businesses would be covered, including part-time workers.

The new law would cover people who work in D.C., regardless of where they live. It would be funded by an increase to the payroll tax of 0.62 percent.

The first taxes would not be collected until 2019 and the first benefits would not be paid out until early 2020, according to Mendelson. 

D.C. government employees already receive up to eight weeks off for family leave, with 100 percent of their pay.

"The U.S. is behind most of the Western world with regard to offering benefits to families," Mendelson said. "Clearly this is an emerging trend and there’s a good reason for it. Benefits like this make it a more attractive place for workers and therefore employers."

The Council could take its first vote on Dec. 6 and a final vote Dec. 20.

News4 has not yet received a comment from Bowser.

Some councilmembers said they already support the plan.

“I am excited that paid family leave is moving to a vote next week," said Councilmember Elissa Silverman.

"Stressful life events -- good or bad -- like the welcoming of a new child or a grave illness in a worker’s family should not turn into financial hardships that have ripple effects on our city," she added.

Councilmember David Grosso had proposed his Universal Paid Leave Act more than a year ago and said he supported this version. "Even revised, this legislation offers the most expansive paid leave benefit in the country," Grosso said. "It puts workers in a better position to care for their families while providing a benefit that is not available anywhere else. That is something we should be very proud to vote for."

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