Sacramento, CA – January 16, 2020 – A new public opinion poll conducted by Change Research demonstrates that California voters strongly support the expansion of Paid Family Leave which was recently proposed by the Newsom Administration. The online poll, funded by First 5 California, reveals that African Americans voters exhibit strong awareness of the 15-year old program (81 percent) and that being able to take time off to care for family members is important to them (78 percent). Yet, a staggering low number (6 percent) have actually ever applied for the program.
As a critical and bold first move, Governor Newsom’s 2020-21 Budget Proposal includes measures to provide universal job protection for California workers who access Paid Family Leave. A large majority (84 percent) of African Americans polled were not aware that not all employees have job protection during Paid Family Leave. More than half of those polled (56 percent) found it an extremely important issue that 25 percent of California workers are not eligible for job protection bonding leave for various reasons outside of their control.
California’s Paid Family Leave program supports workers who take time off to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill family member. The insurance program, created in 2004 is funded by employee payroll deductions and was the first in the nation, to acknowledge that bonding time with a parent gives a newborn baby their best chance at good health and future success. Use of Paid Family Leave is associated with higher rates of breastfeeding and improvements in overall child health, along with reduced rates of infant deaths.
The Governor’s Task Force identified low payments and lack of job protection as the primary reasons California families are missing out on benefits that they pay for. With workers only being paid 60 or 70 percent of what they usually earn during Paid Family Leave, it can be hard for many families to cover basic monthly bills. On top of that, a lack of job protection means that a worker could lose their job or be retaliated against for taking leave.
“We are thrilled that the Governor agrees that strong families need strong Paid Family Leave policy, and that voters are in turn ready to make expansion a reality,” said Erin Gabel, Chief Deputy Director at First 5 California and Paid Family Leave Task Force Appointee.
Toward this end, the Legislature and the Governor worked together to add an additional two weeks of benefits to each Paid Family Leave claim, effective July 1, 2020. To better address barriers to access and improve upon California’s Paid Family Leave policy, the Task Force has developed a longer term, step-by-step plan with a phased approach. Highlights from the plan include job protection for all workers, expanding benefits from 6 to 12 weeks, and increasing wage replacement from 60 percent or 70 percent to 75 percent or 90 percent, depending on regular annual earnings.