Washington, DC – The DC Paid Leave Campaign, representing a diverse coalition of local businesses, community institutions, service providers, and advocacy organizations, commends the DC Council’s unanimous vote on the “Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Support Act of 2021” to strengthen and expand the DC Paid Family Leave program. The changes to this effective and life-changing program stand to benefit half a million workers and their families.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, no one should have to lose their job or income in order to care for themselves or the people they love. Expanding Personal Medical leave is particularly critical to advancing equity for Black and brown workers and families in the District of Columbia. Based on the Department of Employment Services (DOES) January 2021 report, more than 80% of those who applied for medical and family caregiving leave identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian or multi-racial. Additionally, 40% of people applying for these leaves have incomes of less than $50,000. And 35% of all DC residents that applied for medical leave live in Wards 7 and 8. The expansion of the DC Paid Family Leave program represents a concrete step towards addressing long-standing racial, economic, and health disparities that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.
By rejecting the Mayor’s proposed tax cut and restoring the payroll tax rate to 0.62%, the Council is able to fund critical changes to DC’s paid family & medical leave (PFML) program. Our coalition strongly supports the following changes included in the FY22 DC Budget and Budget Support Act:
- Expanding Personal Medical leave from two to six weeks in fiscal year 2022 – for workers who take time off for their medical needs
- Expanding access – especially for the District’s most vulnerable workers – and enabling workers to take the leave to which they are entitled by:
- Strengthening job protection by conforming with federal FMLA, so workers who return to their job after the pandemic have the job protection necessary to take leave
- Removing the 7-day waiting period before a worker can access benefits– on a one-year trial basis – and allowing workers to apply for benefits retroactively – within a reasonable period after the leave event has occurred
- Expanding the period of reported wages used to determine benefits, for one year post-pandemic. By enabling the program to calculate benefits based on the highest 4 quarters of income over the past 10 quarters (instead of 5), this change will mean that workers who lost income during the pandemic will still receive paid leave benefits.
- Planning for future expansion of PFML benefits to twelve weeks for each of Parental, Family Caregiving, and Personal Medical leave – based on the Office of the Chief Financial Officer’s future projections, while maintaining the 0.62% tax rate.
The DC Paid Leave Campaign would like to thank Councilmember Elissa Silverman and Chairman Phil Mendelson for their leadership, and for the strong support from many other Councilmembers to protect and expand the DC Paid Family Leave program.