Weekly Column

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Now more than ever, working families are faced with growing challenges to balance their daily responsibilities. Nebraska families are burning the candle at both ends as they work to provide and care for their loved ones. Many employers cannot afford to offer paid leave to provide ample time for parents to care for their newborn or aid a sick family member. Millions of American workers deserve the flexibility they need to be there for their families at times when they are needed the most.

For the first time in our nation’s history, working families can access a nationwide paid family leave policy. For four years in the Senate, I worked across the aisle and led the effort to pass the first-ever nationwide paid family leave policy. The policy provides families with the flexibility to care for their loved ones while also respecting the costs of running a business.

This voluntary program encourages businesses to offer up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. Men and women can take maternity or paternity leave to care for their biological or adopted children. Employees can also use this leave to take care of other family members in need. In exchange, employers will receive as much as a 25 percent tax credit for the amount of wages replaced. The policy is targeted specifically towards hourly employees who, unlike executive and high-salaried employees, would not otherwise have access to paid family leave. Those who participate in this program must make less than $72,000 per year.

Make no mistake, this is not another budget-busting federal government program. My plan steers away from an open-ended and costly Washington mandate approach. It is a responsible option that incentivizes businesses, especially small ones, to grant Nebraska’s families with the flexibility they need.

In September, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS released guidance for employers on my paid family leave tax incentive. I want to encourage all employers, especially small businesses, in Nebraska to take advantage of the opportunity to provide paid family leave to their employees. My office would be happy to assist with questions your company may have regarding its implementation.

Under current law, the tax incentive is a two-year pilot program. This provided a trial run to give Congress an opportunity to assess its effectiveness. However, because the guidance on how businesses can use this tax credit was not issued until September, I joined with Senators Angus King (I-Maine) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) to introduce the Paid Family Leave Extension Pilot Act. This solution would give businesses three more years to implement a program, expand paid family leave for employees, and allow Congress to access sufficient data to assess the benefits of the program.

No one should be forced into a decision between their career’s work and caring for a child, spouse, or elderly parent. Nebraska families should never be held back by choosing to put their family first.

Paid Family Leave is one of the few issues that both parties still agree is worth uniting behind. Families in Nebraska and across the country only stand to benefit from this pro-family, middle-ground solution. Again, if your business is interested in this paid family leave tax incentive and would like additional information, please contact my Washington office at 202-224-6551 or visit https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-18-71.pdf to view the IRS guidance.

Thank you for participating in our democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.