California raises wage replacement for paid family leave
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Friday that will raise the amount of money workers receive under the state’s paid family and medical leave program, a boost that supporters say will ensure lower-wage workers are not blocked from the benefit, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The state will pay up to 90% in wage replacement for all new parents and those who need to take time off to care for a seriously ill relative, starting in 2025. Senate Bill 951, sponsored by Sen. María Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, also ensures that the wage replacement, currently set at 60%-70%, will not drop back to its original rate, which was 55%.
“California families and our state as a whole are stronger when workers have the support they need to care for themselves and their loved ones,” Newsom said in a statement. “California created the first Paid Family Leave program in the nation 20 years ago, and today we’re taking an important step to ensure more low-wage workers, many of them women and people of color, can access the time off they’ve earned while still providing for their family.”
This bill largely rectifies a key inequity of the paid family leave system because low-wage workers often can’t afford any cut in pay while taking care of a new baby or an elderly parent. That has led to the benefit being mostly enjoyed by higher-income workers, experts say, while less privileged workers remain tied to their paychecks. The pandemic and inflation have only heightened that dynamic, pushing many families to the financial brink.
“Paid family leave policies have the power to lift people out of poverty, but only if the lowest-income Californian has the ability to utilize the program,” Bridget Shea, California campaign manager for Paid Leave for the United States, an organization advocating for paid leave, has said. “Californians that are working paycheck to paycheck.”