Letter to Governor Scott on Paid Family Leave
Governor Phil Scott,
On behalf of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and our 730 plus member businesses across the state, we are writing to urge you to sign H.107, legislation that would take an essential step forward in providing a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program for all Vermonters.
While we commend your Administration for recognizing the critical support that Paid Family Leave provides, as illustrated in the program proposed in the collective bargaining agreement with Vermont State Employees’ Association, the new benefit for the state’s 8,500 employees provides only 60% wage replacement for up to 6 weeks of leave. Facilitated by a private insurer, companies and individual employees around the state could opt to purchase the same benefit. While this would be an improvement for state employees, these wage replacements and leave maximums are wholly inadequate for the average Vermonter and will make the program inaccessible to low and moderate earners across the state.
A full-time minimum wage worker enrolled in this plan would only receive about $250 a week in wage replacement while the average earner would receive roughly $575 a week, for up to 6 weeks. This brings to light a harsh reality; low-income families simply cannot support themselves on half a wage and the Administration’s program stands to leave Vermont’s most vulnerable workers behind. Conversely, under H.107, the average Vermonter would receive about $714 a week in wage replacement and a full-time minimum wage worker would receive about $411 a week (only $20 less than their regular earnings) for up to 12 weeks to welcome a new child.
Workers across every industry and earning group benefit from Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), and PFML programs provide a major advantage for their employers as well. When done right, these benefits create predictable employment conditions and serve as a critical tool for recruiting and retaining prime-age, high-quality workers—building the local labor force.
In states that have passed Universal PFML, studies show both turnover rates and employment costs decreased. VBSR’s own membership can attest to the positive impact of PFML benefits. In our 2018 Membership Survey more than 36% of our members reported that they offer paid family leave and of those businesses, only 13% report challenges with employee retention.
Paid Family and Medical Leave would also provide relief to our public benefit programs, particularly those which support young and aging Vermonters. Under H.107, co-parenting partners can take consecutive benefit claims up to 24 weeks to welcome a new child through birth, adoption or fostering. This in turn generates critical capacity for early childcare systems in a state where an estimated 80% of infants and toddlers likely in need of care do not have access.
Additionally, providing workers with up to 8 weeks of leave to care for an immediate family member experiencing a serious illness alleviates Medicaid spending on residential and visiting care programs that currently fill the caretaker gap.
From Vermont companies looking to bring new talent to our state, to Vermont families facing a terrible crisis or new joy, the creation of a universal and mandatory system for Paid Family Leave would benefit our businesses, workers, and the communities in which they live and work. For these reasons, we urge you to sign H.107.
Thank you for your consideration,
Jane Campbell Jordan Giaconia
Executive Director Public Policy Manager