Virginia inches closer to paid family medical leave
Twelve states and the District of Columbia have paid family medical leave programs for employees, but not Virginia. Democrats in the House and Senate are hoping to change that.
The plan, from Senator Jennifer Boysko and Delegate Briana Sewell, would take about $4 a week from employee’s checks and put it into a state program which would provide 12 weeks of paid leave for maternity or family emergency sick leave. It would run like an insurance program, managed by the state’s employment commission with a payment system like unemployment.
Boysko said the bill was meant to protect restaurant and domestic workers and those in the retail industry, about 76% of Virginia’s employees.
“This is something that we should all get behind because we can all relate to the joy of having a new baby, or to the chaos of a health emergency, no matter what our politics are,” Boysko said at a news conference Monday.
Among advocates for the bill is Shirley Modlin who runs 3D Design and Manufacturing in Powhatan. She said her business has less than 25 employees which makes it too hard to provide paid leave, even as larger companies move to offer such benefits.
“This is leveling the playing field, giving small businesses the opportunity to compete with large corporations,” Modlin said.
But pushback was present when Sewell’s bill was heard in a House subcommittee. Eleni Poulos with the Virginia Chamber of Commerce said the change would negatively impact the bottom line of about 95% of the state's businesses.
"We are concerned with the cost and administrative burden it will have on Virginia’s employers,” Poulos told the committee.
The bill was voted out from the House committee along party lines, and a senate committee Monday afternoon approved Boysko’s bill along party lines as well. How it will fare in the full chamber - and possibly Governor Youngkin’s desk - remains to be seen.