Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Trump’s Paid Parental Leave Proposal Is Set Up to Fail
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Last month, President Donald Trump released his first budget proposal, which contains deeply punishing cuts to crucial programs for women and families. Also included in Trump’s budget is a paid parental leave proposal that would require states to provide six weeks of paid parental leave for parents welcoming the birth or adoption of a new child. Notably, Trump’s plan fails to address the many other reasons workers need access to paid leave benefits, such as caring for a sick or aging parent, a disabled spouse or adult child, an injured military service member, or to recover from one’s own serious illness.

As a new issue brief by the Center for American Progress shows, Trump’s paid parental leave proposal is unfunded, unworkable, and under-inclusive—and it threatens to erode critical unemployment insurance (UI) protections.

Far from offering the robust solutions families need, Trump’s proposal would extend a meager benefit to a narrow swath of working families. His proposal would require states to deliver paid parental leave benefits through their existing UI programs—but as CAP’s issue brief demonstrates, a UI-based parental leave program would exclude too many workers.

That’s because there is tremendous variation across states in UI eligibility and benefits, and the UI system disproportionately excludes groups such as women, people of color, and low-wage workers. States’ UI programs already fail to cover a sizable number of workers, with 13 states providing UI benefits to less than one in five unemployed workers. Yet Trump’s proposal apparently would rely on states to establish eligibility standards to determine who could access paid parental leave through their existing UI programs.

“As outlined in his budget, President Trump’s paid parental leave proposal threatens to leave out the very workers who need access to robust, comprehensive paid leave benefits the most,” said Sunny Frothingham, senior researcher for Women’s Economic Policy at CAP and co-author of the issue brief. “Worse, the proposal threatens to put additional strain on an already-underfunded UI system, potentially pitting unemployed jobseekers against new parents.”

By pushing costs onto states without addressing the significant challenges the UI system currently faces, Trump’s proposal threatens to undermine economic stability for state UI programs and families. Currently, only 20 states and the District of Columbia are equipped to provide UI benefits during even a mild recession. Without added funded to states to bolster their UI programs, Trump’s paid parental leave proposal is unsustainable and wage replacement rates would likely be far too low for many low- and middle-income families to afford to take leave.

An effective, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program must be widely available, covering all workers; must comprehensively address families’ variety of medical and care needs; and must provide sufficient wage replacement so that families do not sink into financial ruin while caregiving. It must also be inclusive of all compositions and strong in combating discrimination and other adverse actions aimed at coercing or discouraging workers from taking leave. Trump’s proposal, by contrast, fails by every one of these measures.

One example of a robust family and medical leave program is offered in the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, as reintroduced in 2017.

Read the issue brief: “Trump’s proposal to Expand Paid Parental Leave through UI Won’t Support Working Women and Families” by Sunny Frothingham and Rachel West

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For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at [email protected] or 202.478.5328.