This Proposed Family Leave Bill Doesn’t Give Parents Paid Time Off

Supermajority Education Fund

December 9, 2019

America is still one of only two countries in the world that doesn’t federally guarantee paid family leave. According to a press release from the Center for American Progress (CAP), a new bill, The Advancing Support for Working Families Act (S.2976 / H.R. 5296), is Congress’s latest step towards addressing that. But some experts don’t think it’s a step in the right direction. 

Introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Colin Allred (D-TX), this bill would allow parents of new children to borrow up to $5,000 from their child’s tax credit — essentially giving them the option of taking out a loan from the future tax credit they will receive for claiming their child as a dependant — to help fund care for their babies while they are young. Crucially, the bill does not guarantee paid time off for parents. 

The Child Tax Credit (CTC) was first enacted by President Ford in 1970 to help lower-income families; anyone can receive a refundable child tax credit equal to 15 percent of earnings above $2,500. Families can claim up to $2,000 yearly for each child under the age of 17, but the credit is reduced by 5 percent for adjusted gross income of $200,000 for single parents and $400,000 for a two-parent household. The law has been criticized by economic experts, who say that calculating all income, not just earnings over $2,500, would benefit families in poverty much more than it currently does. 

Diana Boesch, Policy Analyst with the Women’s Initiative at CAP, told Supermajority News that The Advancing Support for Working Families Act would only hurt any benefits family might receive from the tax credit. 

“Lawmakers can help families by creating a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program that does not cut other critical benefits,” she said. “Valuing families means prioritizing both paid leave and the child tax credit.”

Shilpa Phadke, Vice President of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress, said in the statement that the bill “forces families to make impossible choices such as caring for their new child or affording expenses of raising their child in the future,” and, in doing so, “undermines the entire point of paid leave: helping workers care for themselves or their relatives without losing their job or economic security.”

She added that the FAMILY Act, which was introduced by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in February 2019, would offer the real support working Americans need. The act, which would allow for partial paid leave for up to 12 weeks during the birth, adoption, or serious illness of a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner, was referred to the Committee on Finance at the time it was introduced, but has not made further progress.