The type and quality of interactions children have with their parents and other caregivers is one of the most important factors in building the brain’s foundation. Many parents are stretched thin, particularly new or young parents and parents who are economically disadvantaged, lack stable housing or are food insecure.
Because the bond between parent and child is so critical, some states are considering paid family leave as a policy option to enable parents to spend more time with their babies. Eleven states—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington—and the District of Columbia—have paid family leave laws on the books. Each year about 25 states debate similar legislation. In some cases— Hawaii and Maine, for example—they establish study commissions to inform decision-making about paid family leave programs in their states.
In 2022, Delaware (S 1) and Maryland (S 275) enacted legislation to create paid family and medical leave programs. Paid leave benefits will begin in Maryland in 2025 and the following year in Delaware.
Virginia took a different approach with S 15. As of July 2022 insurance companies will be authorized to offer policies employers can purchase to provide paid leave benefits for their workers. This new law includes neither an employer mandate nor a payroll tax.
Georgia (H 146), South Carolina (S 11) and Utah (S 100) passed narrower focus limiting who qualifies, how long paid leave can be taken and what life events make an employee eligible to receive the benefit.
Rhode Island’s paid leave program, enacted in 2013, provides employees with four weeks of leave. In 2021, with the signing of H 6090, legislators increased the benefit amount to five weeks beginning in 2022 and then to six weeks in 2023.
Colorado voters overwhelmingly approved creating a state paid family and medical leave program through a 2020 ballot initiative. Benefits will begin in 2024. Oregon enacted legislation in 2019 to establish a paid family and medical leave system; however, during the 2022 session they passed H 3398 delaying implementation. Under the updated law, employers will begin making contributions to the state's paid family and medical leave insurance on Jan. 1, 2023, one year later than originally scheduled. Employees can begin collecting benefits on Sept. 1, 2023. All other states with paid leave policies are collecting and paying benefits.