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Bill Would Expand NJ Paid Family Leave Program

Senate Labor Committee holds hearing on the expansion plan.

A bill advanced by the Senate Labor Committee would expand New Jersey’s paid family leave program.

Dena Mottola Jaborska with New Jersey Citizen Action is pleased the legislation would increase the wage replacement rate when workers take family leave.

“Workers who are working at the lower income level will be able to get 90 percent of their salary. And workers who are at the higher earning level will be able to earn the average weekly wage in this state which is about $1200, and that is really what is considered minimally livable in our state.”

Renee Koubiadis with the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey says those increases will make a big difference for low-income workers.

“They are faced with the extremely difficult decision, and many times emotional, to not take time off to care for a loved one and continue working because only receiving two thirds of their salary would drive them deeper into poverty or into poverty in our high cost state.”

The definition of family that workers could take paid leave to care for would be expanded to include siblings, adult children, foster children, parents-in-law, grandparents, and grandkids.

Crystal McDonald with AARP New Jersey says that will allow more caregivers to utilize the program.

“It’s really a benefit to that family but also to the state in making sure that person can remain at home and out of more costly state funded institutions.”

Current law provides protections against employer retaliation for workers who qualify for coverage under the Family Leave who work at companies with 50 or more employees. The legislation would reduce that to 30.

Eric Richard with the state AFL-CIO says that doesn’t go far enough.

“The folks that are working for those employers, 30 or less, are still paying into a fund, the Paid Family Leave Fund, that they cannot utilize with the fear of losing their jobs.”

Christina Renna with the South Jersey Chamber of Commerce worries whether the current payroll deduction for the family leave insurance program will provide enough money to expand it.

“Do we know that we can sustain that with the current dollars that are going into the fund with the payroll tax? And if not, If it’s not sustainable, then where does the tax get increased?”

Business groups are also concerned that the expansion of the program will increase their costs to pay overtime or hire fill-in workers when employees take family leave.