Mainers Celebrate Passage of Paid Family Medical Leave Program
Thursday, July 13, 2023
After years of grassroots advocacy, Maine will become the 13th state in the nation to adopt a mandatory paid family and medical leave program.
Employers and employees will split a 1% payroll tax to fund the program, allowing many workers to take up to twelve weeks of paid leave each year to care for a newborn or a sick family member.
Bridget Quinn with AARP Maine lauded the new program for its generous definition of "family member," which acknowledges it can sometimes mean a neighbor or even a dear friend.
"It's really important that we recognize that those relationships are just as important as family," Quinn stressed. "It's really lovely that we have that language included."
Quinn pointed out there are an estimated 166,000 unpaid caregivers in Maine who will ultimately benefit from the program. It's also expected to help the state's economy as it faces a critical worker shortage.
Quinn noted women especially take on the burden of caregiving and will no longer face the choice of tending to a loved one or keeping their job.
Gov. Janet Mills penned a newspaper op-ed in which she shared her own struggles of working full-time while caring for her husband following a debilitating stroke as well as her two aging parents. Quinn emphasized it was a familiar story for many Mainers, who also shared the financial and emotional stress of unpaid care.
"Those who came forward with those stories are really the ones who got this over the finish line and I thank every advocate out there for sharing," Mills wrote. "I know that is really a personal thing to share but I think it is really what we needed to hear."
Quinn added she and other advocates for the program feel elated and grateful. The White House also released a statement praising the state's Democratic leadership for passage of the paid family and medical leave program, one which has stalled at the federal level.
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