One year ago this March, families across the state found themselves suddenly trying to balance the responsibilities of working while carrying for children who were not in school. In the fall, as coronavirus case numbers exploded, thousands of Montanans were again faced with a potentially deadly predicament – risk losing their income or continue working while they or someone in their care was sick.
But for too many Montanans, this year of national crisis has not been the first time families have had to make these impossible choices. Mothers have left newborns to return to work, cancer patients have lost their income when they were ill, and businesses have lost valuable employees when they could not afford to pay them while on a temporary leave.
This week, the Montana Legislature will consider a bill that aims to help working Montana families keep their jobs and income when going through times of medical crises. The Montana Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Act would pool small contributions from employees and employers to create a dedicate source of funding for when workers need time off to care for themselves or a loved one.
The FAMLI Act Provides Paid Leave for Montanans
The FAMLI Act functions similarly to how unemployment insurance work. Employers and employees would both contribute a small amount – less than one half of 1 percent of a workers’ wages – to the FAMLI fund. These contributions would allow workers to a portion of their salary (more for low wage workers) while on leave. Workers would be eligible for a maximum of 12 weeks of paid leave.
Representative Moffie Funk introduced HB 228 last month, and the House Business and Labor Committee will have a hearing this Wednesday, February 10th at 8:30. For more information on how the FAMLI Act would work, see our report House Bill 228 – Montana FAMLI Act: A Policy Design Supporting Families and Businesses.
Paid leave Is Important for Montana’s Families, Businesses, and the Economy.
Paid leave helps families facing a variety of circumstances. Under the FAMLI Act, covered individuals would be eligible to take leave for:
- A serious health condition;
- A family member’s serious health condition;
- The birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child; or
- A family member being called to active duty.
While paid leave helps give families stability during times of upheaval, the benefits extend past the time a worker takes their leave. Mothers who take paid leave are more likely to return to their careers after their leave, enabling them to earn more over their lifetime.
Businesses and Montana’s economy would benefit from paid leave as well. Employers with paid leave experience less turn over and save money that would have been spent on new training costs. Montana’s population is aging, and with more workers retiring and fewer skilled workers moving into jobs, a paid leave policy helps the state remain attractive to workers and businesses.
Share your story
Most of us have been affected by an illness of our own or a family member, or who have welcomed a new child into our family, at some point or another. If you have a story about how paid leave would have impacted your family or strengthened your business, we encourage you share it.
There is a hearing on HB 228 on Wednesday, February 10th, at 8:30 am. If you wish to testify remotely, you will need to submit your testimony or register to testify by 12:00 pm on February 9th. For more tips on how to testify remotely, please read our blog post here.
You can also message the House Business and Labor committee to urge their support of HB 228 at 406-444-4800 or https://leg.mt.gov/web-messaging/.