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How Biden May Increase Paid Household Trip To Extra Individuals

President Joe Biden recently unveiled his American Families Plan, a $ 1.8 trillion proposal that would, among other things, give 12 weeks of paid vacation to workers caring for new children or a sick family member. Perhaps just as importantly, the proposal could also fundamentally change the US government's definition of “family”.

The current law in the country is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, which requires large employers to allow workers for qualified family or medical reasons to take leave without the need to pay workers during leisure time. And not everyone can benefit from it. When it comes to unpaid leave, the federal government's current definition of who counts as family is pretty closely tied to the idea of ​​a nuclear: married partners and children under the age of 18. That leaves out a massive percentage of the population; Only 18.4 percent of Americans live in traditional nuclear family households.

Nine states and the District of Columbia, which together represent one-third of the nation's population, have government programs that fund or will fund paid vacation, and each use a definition of family that goes beyond the FMLA. However, vacation is regulated by a patchwork of government and individual business policies, so that most families are excluded.

Many Americans rely on an extended or select family for care. For example, less than half of LGBTQ Americans surveyed in 2020 said they are most likely to rely on biological family support when they are sick, according to a survey by the Progressive Center for American Progress.

The American Families Plan does not currently specifically provide for select and extended families to be included in its paid vacation protection, but does say that access will be extended. As Sherry Leiwant and Jared Make, the heads of A Better Balance, an advocacy group for paid family vacation and reduced childcare programs, told Vox, it will be up to groups like them to get lawmakers to ensure Congressional inclusion of the plan . Any bill extending who can take vacation to care for loved ones could have massive ramifications. A reformulation of the federal government's conception of families could help to improve the economic conditions of competition. Another example is the Richard Neal (D-MA) Building an Economy for Families Act, a far more detailed paid vacation plan that was introduced in late April.

Leiwant and Make spoke briefly with Vox about Biden and Neal's plans and the implications of a new definition of family. The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Gregory Svirnovskiy

Can you explain to me laypeople how the federal government defines the family? Is that manifested in the FMLA?

Sherry Leiwant

The federal government has been very generous in the way it has defined sick leave for its own employees since the 1970s when they began to view the family as something other than just the core family. It is the federal government that coined the term "blood or affinity" as a relationship. And, as Jared can testify, we have used this in every state where we have written model laws for sick leave or paid family leave. You are just beginning to absorb these terms too. So the federal government was really in the lead here.

The FMLA, on the other hand, is extremely narrow. This only applies to spouses and parents and only to children under the age of 18, which has always been a thorn in my side because my children are older. So that's a very narrow definition.

Jared Make

As long as there is a better balance, we've heard from workers that the definition of family under the federal law on family and sick leave is incredibly narrow. And it includes not only immediate core family relationships – such as adult children, life partners, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren – but also the more broadly selected family that Sherry mentioned and that the federal government recognizes for their own employees.

So there's a hiatus there, but it's an area where we've seen states really be leaders, and it's exciting to now see proposals and support for paid family and sick leave at the federal level that have an inclusive family definition .

Gregory Svirnovskiy

How have these narrow definitions in the FMLA affected non-traditional families, particularly members of the LGBTQ community?

Jared Make

I think the unfortunate reality is that most of these families have historically been left out, and that continues to this day. As you know, there is a big gap in the fact that domestic partners, for example, are not covered. And this was certainly a total exclusion of same-sex couples prior to marriage equality. Now that we have marriage equality, of course, married same-sex couples are insured, all spouses are insured. However, the definition still leaves out domestic partners.

Sherry Leiwant

Also the immigrant community. In many cases, you have people who are here who left their immediate families behind, but they live with other family members who care and care for them. You have many people who live in large families. And that can also have different racial and ethnic effects. So it's very important across the board.

Gregory Svirnovskiy

Now we have two new proposals for family vacations in President Biden's American Families Plan and in Rep. Richard Neal's Family Building Act. Do these plans go beyond the current definitions of nuclear families?

Sherry Leiwant

The Biden team is fully committed to a broad definition of family, including blood or affinity. So does Rep. Neal, the head of the Ways and Means Committee, which is currently studying the language for a possible paid family vacation program for the nation. He has presented a draft discussion that also includes a broad and comprehensive definition of family. In fact, it follows the FMLA on everything for purposes and weeks and so on. However, there is a specific exception to the family definition to make it broader. And it's basically what we used and what we were talking about here.

Gregory Svirnovskiy

Glad you brought this up because one of the things that really worried me is that I scoured the internet and couldn't find a defined language detailing who was on the Biden vacation plan can qualify. aside from these broad allusions to the fact that it is more inclusive.

Sherry Leiwant

Well, I mean, I think what we have always expected from the President has been a very comprehensive program that will then be more precisely defined in Congress.

This is what it sends, it does not send detailed laws. I think working with the committee or the various committees is really important to see what actually comes through. And I'm sure the White House will be involved in what it looks like in some way.

Gregory Svirnovskiy

Can you tell me more about Rep. Neal's proposal? Is it any different from Biden's AFP?

Sherry Leiwant

It extends the family definition. FMLA, it's only for parents with young children under the age of 18. The Neal proposal would extend this to a variety of named relatives, as well as those who have the equivalent of a family relationship by blood or affinity.

All the nuts and bolts are in there. I'm not sure if the stakeholders like the lawyers, the business community or the disabled community are okay with what they have done. And there will be a pushback and there will be a conversation and I'm sure things will change. However, this document contains a large number of details.

Gregory Svirnovskiy

Is something missing from the plans that Biden or Neal are putting before Congress? For example, will families who take paid leave be guaranteed work when they return from leave?

Sherry Leiwant

The FMLA continues to be the only health and safety law or legal remedy. If you care for someone in your extended family, you could get benefits if Neal's or Biden's draft discussion passed, but the FMLA remains the only labor law. We would have to expand the definition of family there.

AFP is silent (on health and safety) and does not really address this issue. Neal's suggestion, silent too. There's nothing in there. This does not mean that there is nothing in the Biden proposal. But I don't think they said either way.

Gregory Svirnovskiy

In the end, when you look at Biden's proposal and Rep. Neal's paid vacation plan, can you address the symbolic significance of it for the American family?

Sherry Leiwant

Yes, it is extremely important. I think it's time. It's been a really long time since we realized that American families are not just mothers, fathers, children, and parents. People rely on loved ones to care for them. And many of our particular communities, like the LGBT community, the disabled community, many immigrant families, are extended families who care for one another and we need to start realizing this. This is a big step in that direction.

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