When faced with an illness, caring for a loved one, or a new child entering the family, many Montana workers are forced to choose between taking time off to care for their family, and financial stability.
But a new bill before the legislature (H.B. 392) gives Montanans a chance to provide for the families to face these hurdles without taking a financial step back. The Montana Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act (the FAMLI Act) combines small amounts from employees and employers – less than one percent of wages into a pool, from which eligible workers could receive a portion of their wages while on leave.
While the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provided workers with some job security, the law only guarantees unpaid leave. Without pay, many workers are not able to take as much time off as they need to adequately take care of themselves and their families. And if they do, the loss in wages may mean difficulty paying the rent or putting food on the table.
Some companies do provide paid leave, but they are the minority. Less than a quarter of workers in the private sector had access to any type of paid sick or family leave.
And when families and workers miss out on wages, everyone suffers. Not only do families face financial insecurity, but the local businesses where they would have spent their wages do as well. Small businesses who wish to not only take care of their workers, but also compete with the benefit packages larger companies offer, benefit from a more equal playing field.
California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have instituted paid leave programs for workers in their states, and have been reaping the benefits for years. In fact, one study found that women who used paid leave were less likely to need public assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The study also found that women were much more likely to be working within the year after their birth, and also had higher wages. Montana has the opportunity to see the same benefits by enacting the FAMLI Act.
Paid family leave can help strengthen the economy, local businesses, and improve the economic and physical health of families. A cost effective program like the FAMLI Act can help strengthen all working Montanans and their loved ones. It’s time for paid leave in Montana.
To read more about how paid leave could benefit Montana, be sure to read MBPC’s report: Helping People Balance Work and Family: It’s Within Montana’s Reach.
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.