December 6, 2017 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

We’ve written before about some of the problems with Republicans’ tax bills that would slash taxes for corporations while harming our collective wellbeing (see here, here, and here). One provision that’s gotten less attention is what The American Prospect calls a “paid family leave fig leaf” in the Senate bill.

The paltry proposal is from Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer, and comes in the form of a tax credit for employers. They can get tax credits for continuing to pay workers with salaries below $72,000 while those workers are on family leave — 12.5% of the wage amount if they pay 50% of workers’ wages, and 25% if they cover 100%. TAP’s Justin Miller explains why this is not advancing the cause of paid leave:

But it’s a far cry from an effective national paid leave policy. In reality, the plan is just one more corporate giveaway in a bill that’s chock-full of them. It’s entirely unclear whether tax credits are a credible way to incentive companies to enact paid family leave. As critics point out, a 25 percent tax credit is probably nowhere near enough to convince companies that don’t provide paid parental leave—either because they legitimately can’t afford it or just don’t want to—to provide it.

On top of that, the tax credit sunsets in 2019 (which would hardly give companies a chance to enact paid leave polices).

“It essentially subsidizes large corporations who already provide paid family leave,” says Ellen Bravo, co-executive director of Family Values @ Work, an advocacy group that supports universal paid family leave. “It’s one more giveaway to large corporations.”

The beneficiaries could include prominent companies that have all recently enacted generous paid family leave policies—among them, Ikea, Coca-Cola, Campbell’s, 3M, and Nike, all companies that will already benefit from the bill’s lucrative cut in the corporate tax rate.

A family leave policy that truly benefits workers would look more like what California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey have set up, where tax-funded pots of money help replace the salaries of those on leave, regardless of who their employers are. (New York and DC have passed laws for leave programs scheduled to start in 2018.) This kind of social insurance mechanism is also what’s involved in the FAMILY Act, which Senator Kirsten (D-NY) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) reintroduced earlier this year.

Paid leave is good for public health, which is why the American Public Health Association has adopted a policy statement calling on the US Congress to pass legislation “making paid medical and family-caregiving leave available to all workers regardless of employer size or sector.” The GOP’s fig leaf doesn’t fit the bill.

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