N.J. Assembly speaker: state’s family-leave program should be more generous

 Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto is joined by advocates as he unveils his proposal. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto is joined by advocates as he unveils his proposal. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Advocates are praising Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto’s plans to improve New Jersey’s paid family leave program.

Prieto’s bill would increase the maximum family leave from six weeks to 12, raise the current $633 cap on weekly benefits to as much as $932, and expand the family members who qualify for paid leave to include siblings, grandparents, and parents-in-law.

Eric Richard with the New Jersey AFL-CIO says the current paid family leave law does not provide job protection for workers at firms with fewer than 50 employees.

“Are they really going to put their livelihood and their family’s livelihood on the line in order to access this program? Simply stated,  employees are fearful of losing their job and this bill corrects that flaw.” 

Dena Mottola with New Jersey Citizen Action says the goal is to have a program that works for everyone.

“That’s the fair thing to do because all working people in our state pay the tax that funds the program. So if we pay for the tax, we want to access the benefit. That just makes sense.”

Prieto says the payroll deduction for family leave would not increase to pay for proposed expanded coverage. 

“Right now it’s underutilized. We’re not using even 50 percent of it. So I think that will be the way it’s going to be paid for.”

Prieto hopes lawmakers vote to approve his plan before they take their summer break.

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