Heinrich, Luján Introduce FAMILY Act, Urge Congress To Pass Permanent Paid Leave Solution To Spur Economic Recovery

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján have introduced the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act to create a permanent, national paid family and medical leave program, offering a key solution to the country’s public health and economic challenges.

The FAMILY Act, introduced by U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), creates an affordable, self-sustaining program that would provide up to 66% wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious health condition, birth or adoption of a child, or family medical emergency. Modeled after successful state efforts, the program would be created through a shared fund that makes paid leave affordable for employers of all sizes and for all workers - young and elderly, single and married, and men and women. The New Mexico state legislature has also gained momentum with securing earned sick leave for employees. On Thursday, February 5, HB 20, the Healthy Workplace Act, passed out of the House Labor, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

A new report released by the National Partnership for Women & Families shows that while the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guaranteed the right to take unpaid leave for some workers, unpaid leave is inaccessible for 66% of working New Mexicans because they are either ineligible under FMLA the or cannot afford to take unpaid leave.

“In the middle of an ongoing pandemic, New Mexicans should not face the impossible choice of caring for their health and family or keeping their job,” said Heinrich. “Yet, the reality is that hard working people in New Mexico and across the country have to make this decision if they need medical treatment or if they have to take care of a newborn or sick parent. Meanwhile, the lack of a paid leave program strains employers and the economy. The FAMILY Act should be included in future COVID relief to ensure that families and businesses have the stability and economic security they need to succeed during these trying times.”

“Too many New Mexicans –especially women of color – are being shut out of the workforce as they care for their loved ones during this pandemic. It’s time to right this injustice, support New Mexico families, and help our economy recover by making paid leave available to all,” said Luján. “I’m proud to support the FAMILY Act, and I’ll continue fighting for robust COVID-19 relief to get working families back on their feet.”

Throughout the pandemic, women have been disproportionately affected by job losses. December job data revealed that the economy suffered a net loss of 140,000 jobs — and each of those jobs lost belonged to a woman. In particular, Black women and Latinas lost their jobs, while White women made significant gains. According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, more than 2 million women have left the U.S. workforce since the pandemic began, with many forced to leave due to family considerations or because they work in some of the hardest hit sectors of our economy. These women, and particularly women of color, are also more likely to be employed in roles that lack paid sick leave and the ability to work from home. Without a permanent paid leave solution, more women are at risk of losing their livelihoods, more workers are at risk of getting sick when they can’t stay home, and our economic recovery is at risk of being stalled.

This legislation has been endorsed by 89 national organizations including Paid Leave for All, National Partnership for Women and Families, PL+US, NAACP, Black Woman’s Roundtable, AFL, SEIU, CWU, National Woman’s Law Center, National Hispanic Council, Moms Rising, FAMILY Values @ Work, CLASP, HRC, American Sustainable Business Council, Main Street Alliance, Small Business Majority.