Letter to Assemblymember Daly: Coalition Calls for Expanded Paid Family Leave Education
While the majority of Californians pay into the state's Paid Family Leave fund, only four in ten who are eligible are aware of the program. Awareness is especially low among new immigrant, low-income and young workers, creating inequities in access to this important benefit. The California Work & Family Coalition and partner organizations signed on to the letter below to request that the Budget Subcommittee 4 support the use of a small, defined portion of the Paid Family Leave fund for education and enrollment support.
Join us on Equal Pay Day, April 8, 2014, as we and partner organizations from across the state call for more equitable access to Paid Family Leave and other benefits that help working women and families thrive.
Rally and Press Conference: Tuesday, April 8 th at 11:30 AM, Capitol Building, South Steps, Sacramento, CA
Budget Subcommittee 4 Hearing (Paid Family Leave is one item): Tuesday April 8 th at 1:30 PM, Capitol Building, Room 447, Sacramento, CA
Letter to Assemblymember Tom Daly
April 3, 2014
Assemblymember Tom Daly
Chair, Assembly Budget Sub-Committee #4
P.O. Box 942849, Room 4166
Sacramento, CA 94249-0069
Re: Outreach for Paid Family Leave Program
Dear Assembly Member Daly,
We the undersigned are writing regarding the need for outreach for the Paid Family Leave program. Too many families pay into the program without benefitting from it due to a lack of awareness. Worker contributions are paid into the State Disability Insurance (SDI) Fund, which is the source of funding for paid leave. The SDI Fund is very healthy, containing over $2.2 billion as of December 2013. We request that funds be appropriated from the SDI Fund for outreach and education, targeted to those with the lowest awareness.
The California Work & Family Coalition is an alliance of working parents, caregivers, advocates, and union members organizing to expand and protect every Californian’s right to put their family first. We led the effort to pass the first Paid Family Leave law in the country, and we continue to advocate for policies that ensure the economic security of all families. The Work & Family Coalition is a project of Next Generation, a non-profit think tank based in San Francisco. The undersigned include Coalition members and partner organizations from various sectors.
A Very Short History
California made history in 2002 when it passed the nation’s first Paid Family Leave law. The law extends the State Disability Insurance Fund to provide up to six weeks a year of wage replacement to workers to bond with a new child or to care for a seriously ill family member. This fund is 100% employee paid, and covers every private sector worker and some public employees. The original law defined “family member” as a child, parent, spouse, or a domestic partner. As of July 1, 2014 this definition will expand to cover siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and in-laws.
The Need Is Great
Overall, awareness of the Paid Family Leave program is low. According to 2011 survey data, less than half of respondents (42.7%) had heard of the program . Awareness among low-income groups (25.4%), Latinos (35.9%), and young workers (26.6%) was substantially lower. Los Angeles County had the lowest rate of awareness about the program (31.4%).
Three-quarters of women entering the workforce today will become pregnant while employed. While roughly 500,000 births occur every year in California, approximately 130,000 women used PFL for bonding with newborn babies. In other words, only about a quarter of all new mothers benefit from paid family leave to bond with their newborns .
In addition, the need for caregiving for family members is increasing: more than one in six working Americans provide care to an elderly or disabled family member. Awareness of Paid Family Leave for caregiving is very low: Even among respondents who had heard of the program, almost one-quarter (22.3%) were not aware that it could be used to care for a family member. Only 11 percent of authorized claims are for caregiving.
Millions of California workers pay into an insurance fund that they do not know exists.
Despite its low take-up among important constituencies, the program has been found to have enormous benefits:
- Mothers who took Paid Family Leave breastfed their babies for twice as long as the median duration of new mothers.
- The proportion of new fathers taking PFL for bonding has increased significantly, suggesting that the program increases bonding opportunities for the whole family.
- New mothers who are able to take leave after the birth of their babies experience lower rates of post-partum depression .
- Workers in low-quality jobs reported a positive effect on their ability to care for a new child because of Paid Family Leave, and are more able to find reliable child care before they return to work.
- An overwhelming majority of workers who took leave to care for an ill family member stated that the leave positively impacted that family member’s health.
Paid Family Leave is a critical support for families, but knowledge about the program is too low. In the meantime, workers continue to pay into the fund without benefitting from leave. The time for a statewide outreach and education campaign to increase take-up is now. The state should expend a portion of the SDI Funds on outreach and education efforts, targeted to those with the lowest awareness.
For more information, contact Jenya Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (415) 523-8016. Thank you for considering our concerns and we look forward to working with the sub-committee in the months ahead.
ACLU of California
California Alliance for Retired Americans
California Black Health Network
California Employment Lawyers Association
California’s Women’s Law Center
California WIC Association Center for WorkLife Law
Child Care Law Center
City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women
Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions
Communications Workers of America District 9
Dion Aroner, former Assembly Member
Equal Rights Advocates
Family Caregiver Alliance
Family Caregiver Support Center
Legal Aid Society - Employment Law Center
Mi Familia Vota
Restaurant Opportunities Center of Los Angeles
Restaurant Opportunities of the Bay
Susan Rose, former Executive Director of the Los Angeles Commission on the Status of women UFCW Western States Council
United Auto Workers (UAW)
University Council - American Federation of Teachers
Zero to Three
1 The fund reimburses workers up to 55% of wages lost, up to a maximum of $1,075 a week in 2014.