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New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance Program: The Sky Has Not Fallen

July 14, 2010

One year after New Jersey became the second state to offer paid family leave, the sky hasn’t fallen and businesses haven’t fled the state. Instead, the clear benefits are piling up: 26,000 workers were able to care for a new baby or a serious personal or family illness without going broke or losing their jobs.

The program is a simple and strong step forward in helping families balance work and family: six weeks’ partial wage replacement for workers when they needed to take time to bond with a new child or care for a sick family member.

This week to mark the anniversary, the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board applauded New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance Program, saying the “successful and cost-effective” program has “proved critics wrong.” They wisely wrote: “New Jersey’s decision to give workers a financial safety net to take care of loved ones was the right thing to do.  It will pay off in ways that cannot always be measured in dollars and cents.”

In these uncertain economic times, as more and more of us struggle to keep jobs and homes, these basic protections mean more to families than ever.

With Family Leave Insurance, working families in New Jersey don’t have to make the impossible choice between earning a paycheck and staying home to care for a loved one.

Building on the success of the FLI programs in New Jersey and California, President Obama has included in his FY 2011 budget a $50 million State Paid Leave Fund proposal, to be run from within the Department of Labor.

These funds would give states the start up costs for family leave programs  –  Washington state could finally implement their program, enacted in 2008, that has been stalled by lack of resources. In states currently considering family leave insurance programs, like Oregon, the fund would be there to get any new programs off the ground once legislation is passed. States with existing programs – New Jersey and California – would be able to do more outreach and educate more residents and working families throughout the state about how to access benefits.

This is impressive progress in just one year – in New Jersey and across the country!

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