Why h.107 the best way forward, toward a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program
VBSR Members want a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program for all Vermonters. It is time we take an essential and meaningful step forward, and pass bill h.107 with a strong majority. We need you to take action now – and tell your representatives to vote YES in favor of h.107.
What does h.107 do?
- Provides 12 weeks of bonding leave for each new parent and 8 weeks of family leave to care for a sick or injured family member, by establishing a universal mandatory state paid family leave program through a .2% payroll tax (some or all of the tax contribution may be covered by employers).
- Provides 6 weeks of personal medical leave, by establishing an optional statewide temporary disability benefit through a .38% payroll tax (some or all of the tax contribution may be covered by employers).
- Provides wage replacement during leave at a rate of 90% of the employee’s earnings up to 55% of the Vermont average weekly wage and 55% of earnings over that, up to the Vermont average weekly wage of $964.
- The average Vermont earner would receive about $714 a week in wage replacement for up to 12 weeks to welcome a new child, by contributing about $2 a week for Paid Family Leave OR about $5.50 a week for both PFL and Temporary Disability coverage. Vermonters who make $73,580 a year or more would receive the maximum benefit of $964 a week.
- Tasks the VT Department of Financial Regulation with finding a private insurer to administer benefits and provides an off ramp for the state to establish a public program if the private insurer cannot or does not comply with the law, and the insurer must provide annual audits to the legislature.
- Provides employment protection and protection from workplace retaliation for all workers who take leave benefits through the program.
- Mandates the state study the possibility of creating a universal mandatory temporary disability benefit and the possibility of optional enrollment for self-employed individuals in the future.
Why is h.107 the best way forward, toward a universal equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program?
In December, the Scott administration came to a collective bargaining agreement with VSEA that will create a paid family leave benefit for the state’s 8,500 employees. While we commend the Governor for recognizing that the security of paid family and medical leave is essential for employees to thrive, the benefit plan agreed to in the 2-year contract is inadequate as a solution for all working Vermonters.
The benefit for state employees is estimated to cost $2.5 million annually and it would provide 60% wage replacement for up to six weeks of leave for employees to welcome a new child, care for a family member, or for their own illness or injury. Facilitated by a private insurer, private companies and individual employees around the state could opt to purchase the same benefit. While this would be an improvement for state employees, we know that as a universal benefit these wage replacements and leave maximums are inadequate for the average Vermonter – and will make the program inaccessible to low and moderate earners, leaving thousands of working Vermonters behind.
A full-time minimum wage worker enrolled in Scott’s plan would only receive about $250 a week in wage replacement and the average Vermonter would receive about $575 a week, for up to only six-weeks. 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. Low-income families cannot support themselves on half a wage.
“I’m supportive of anything we can do to get more Vermonters access to paid leave, but to be clear, [Scott’s plan] does not do that, and we will stay on track to pass a bill that helps everyone.” — House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski, to VPR on Dec. 12th
The problem with Scott’s plan with VSEA – is that the path from here is unclear and full of obstacles. This agreement circumvents the legislative process, and details such as the overall cost, contribution rates, job protections, and an appeals process for denied claims are all unknown. Furthermore, we have yet to hear a statement of purpose from the Scott administration to expand this benefit to create a truly universal and equitable program in the future.
We fear that without action in the State House this year – the plan designed by the Scott administration will become the paid family leave benefit for all Vermonters and progress toward a universal program will be halted.
What’s next for h.107?
H.107 moved through conference committee last week, where members of the House and Senate were able to reach a compromise between their respective versions of the bill. On Friday, the Senate voted to pass the compromise bill in a 20-9 vote. The strong support from Senators lays the foundation for a potential veto override. This week, the bill moves to the House for their vote.
With a strong majority of Representatives in favor of the bill, h.107 could become law.
It is time we take this substantial step forward, for the benefit of Vermont’s businesses, employees, and the communities in which they live and work.
Contact your local Representatives today and tell them why you believe that voting yes on h.107 is the best way forward, toward our goal of establishing a universal and equitable Paid Family and Medical Leave Program in Vermont.