Election 2020 Kirsten Gillibrand

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at the Surf Ballroom, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019, in Clear Lake, Iowa. (AP Photo/John Locher)

For years, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has advocated for a national paid family leave program. A new poll conducted by a progressive think tank shows there is bipartisan support for the proposal. 

A survey conducted for Data for Progress found two-thirds of voters support 12 weeks of paid family leave that would be funded by a 0.4% payroll tax paid by employers and employees. It was the preferred paid leave proposal among three options considered by respondents. 

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is the sponsor of the FAMILY Act — a bill that would establish a national paid family leave program. It would grant 12 weeks of paid leave for the adoption or the birth of a child, to recover from a serious illness or injury or to care for a sick family member. 

"It creates a fully separate earned benefit," Gillibrand said during a conference call with reporters Tuesday. "Americans are clear that they want real paid leave that doesn't cut their Social Security, create loans or chip away at tax credits." 

She referred to other paid leave proposals that are considered alternatives to establishing a new earned benefit. The survey asked voters about whether they would support a $5,000 childcare credit that would be subtracted from a future childcare deduction and another proposal that would allow new parents to access Social Security benefits to take leave, but require them to delay retirement later in life. 

Forty-two percent of voters showed some level of support for the childcare credit. A little more than a quarter of voters — 27% — said they either strongly or somewhat support dipping into Social Security benefits to cover paid leave. 

However, supporters of a national paid family leave program note that the alternatives would be limited to the adoption or birth of a child. You wouldn't be able to take paid leave to care for a sick family member. 

"Any paid leave plan must apply to a range of personal and family medical emergencies," Gillibrand said. 

Some states, including New York, have paid family leave programs. New York's is being phased in and will offer 12 weeks of paid leave once it's fully implemented. 

Gillibrand praised New York and other states that have paid family leave programs. She said a federal paid family leave policy would increase the benefits available to New Yorkers and help businesses, especially small- and medium-sized companies.

"Establishing a national standard for leave will allow equity among workers and support small businesses to have consistent policies," she said. 

Gillibrand reintroduced the FAMILY Act earlier this year. She's been the Senate sponsor of the bill for years, but it hasn't received a floor vote. 

She pledged to continue pushing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold a vote on the measure. 

"It's time to follow the lead of New Yorkers and Americans and pass the FAMILY Act," she said. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.


Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.