Coalition Launches Campaign for Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program

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R-L: Governor Madeleine Kunin and Sascha Mayer, Co-founder and CEO of Mamava, spoke at the VT FaMLI Launch

MONTPELIER, VT -- A coalition of statewide organizations launched a campaign for a statewide family and medical leave insurance program. The push is for an insurance program to which working Vermonters would contribute and benefit from. This program would allow Vermonters to have access to paid, job-protected leave to bond with or care for a new child, recover from a serious long-term illness or injury, or care for a family member with a serious long-term illness or injury.

Together with the UVM Center for Rural Studies, the Vermont Commission on Women is exploring the feasibility of a family and medical leave insurance program in the state of Vermont. The study is part of a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Paid family and medical leave is a step toward pay equity, and central to that is the powerful support it brings to families – mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, and everyone who needs to balance caring for themselves and their loved ones with making a living,” said Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women.

California, New Jersey and Rhode Island currently have programs in place, and New York’s new law is set to go into effect in 2018. Family and medical leave laws in these states were built off of existing temporary disability insurance (TDI) programs, which allow workers to take extended leave for serious non-work-related injury or illness. TDI programs have now been expanded to include special allocations for parental leave and caregiving.

The majority of employers in states with family and medical leave programs have largely reported either no impacts or positive impacts -- through reduced turnover and higher morale -- to their business as a result of these programs. And Main Street Alliance of Vermont has a coalition of more than 100 business owner members who support state efforts to establish a family and medical leave insurance program for all Vermont workers. One such business, Mamava – creators of freestanding lactation suites – supports this initiative as core to their mission: Women who are able to take paid leave are twice as likely to breastfeed. However, they also see the benefit a statewide family and medical leave program would provide to small employers across Vermont.

“We value the support this insurance program would provide to Vermont small businesses,” said Sascha Mayer, CEO and Co-founder of Mamava. “Small businesses, like Mamava, must compete with larger employers to attract and keep good employees. However, it's harder – financially – for us to offer robust benefit packages to our employees. This program has the potential to give Vermont's small businesses more of a level playing field with larger companies when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.”

Today, almost 25 percent of adults provide some form of care to a parent, whether financial or personal. This number has tripled over the past 15 years - which leads to lost wages, lost social security, and lost pensions. Women are disproportionately impacted by caregiving responsibilities – from the birth of their own children to the care of their aging parents.

“Unpaid leave either means you go right back to work because you can’t miss a paycheck... or you don’t go back to work, and you are poor as a result,” said Governor Madeleine Kunin, highlighting the need to move this issue forward immediately. “We’re not going to listen to those who say it can’t be done.”

Tara Hodgkins, a working Vermonter, mother and caretaker also shared her story via video: https://vimeo.com/187918105 

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FaMLI Coalition Partners:        

AARP-Vermont, Community of Vermont Elders, Good Beginnings of Central Vermont, Main Street Alliance of Vermont, Peace & Justice Center, Let’s Grow Kids, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Public Assets Institute, Rights & Democracy, Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, Vermont Commission on Women, Vermont Interfaith Action, Vermont Low Income Advocacy Council, Vermont Network Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, Vermont Public Health Association, Vermont-NEA, Voices for Vermont’s Children 

vtfamilyleave.org

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