Insider NJ

Time To Care Coalition Celebrates Signing Of Paid Family Leave Expansion Into Law

Bill signed by Governor Murphy greatly enhances a historic program for working families

Insider NJ — February 19, 2019

Piscataway — Advocates, workers, caregivers and small business owners of the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition today celebrated Governor Phil Murphy's signing of S2528 / A3975, a bill significantly expanding and improving the NJ Family Leave Insurance (FLI) and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) programs. New Jersey's paid family leave program, established in 2008, has helped many thousands of state residents take time to care for family members in need or to bond with newborn or adopted children. But far too many low and middle-income workers have been unable to use the program because they were not aware of it, or could not afford to, or because the individuals they needed to care for were not covered in the program. The new law's most important improvements include greatly increasing the amount of money provided to workers, doubling the amount of time available to bond or provide care, expanding eligibility for whom leave can be taken and providing $1.2 million in funding to raise public awareness of the program.

"The changes signed into law today make it possible for many more New Jersey workers to take time off to care for their loved ones or bond with children during moments of crisis or connection without fear of falling into poverty," said Yarrow Willman-Cole from the Center for Women and Work at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. "That is the simple beauty of an accessible and affordable paid family leave program — we can have the freedom to focus on our loved ones without worrying about missing a rent or bill payment."

The bill signing highlights the growing national movement and political momentum around paid family leave. New Jersey was just the second state to enact such a program in 2008; currently 6 states and the district of Columbia have adopted paid family leave programs and 4 to 5 additional states have legislation pending that could become law in the next two years. Last week, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a national paid family leave program proposal in both houses of Congress through the Family Act, an indicator that paid family leave will be a critical issue in the 2020 presidential election.

"Paid family leave is an economic and moral imperative that New Jersey's working families need to survive and thrive," said Dena Mottola Jaborska, Associate Director of New Jersey Citizen Action. "The changes adopted today make our program more open and accessible to many previously left behind. With these changes, New Jersey has become a national leader on paid family leave and a model for our nation."

The bill signing also marks the culmination of years of grassroots advocacy work by the TTC Coalition, a diverse group of more than 100 organizations that was instrumental in helping to create the New Jersey paid family leave program and which again played a critical role in crafting the program's expansion. TTC Coalition advocates suffered a setback in 2017 when then-Governor Chris Christie vetoed an earlier expansion bill. But ultimately the coalition's fruitful partnership with the Murphy administration and key legislative allies, and its mobilization of policy experts, health care providers, faith leaders, caregivers, union and non-union workers, small business owners and concerned New Jersey residents ensured the paid family leave expansion bill became law.

The new law expands job protection for some but not all New Jersey workers, leaving an estimated 800,000 workers without job protection and making it difficult for them to access to the program without fear of job loss. TTC Coalition advocates noted that further legislative action is needed to ensure everyone who works in New Jersey and pays into the program can use it when they need it. But they also celebrated the greatly needed improvements the new law brings.

"New Jersey's Paid Family Leave program made a huge difference in my family's life when my twins were born two and half months prematurely," said Jason Butkowski, a resident of Parlin. "But the changes this bill makes by doubling the available time from 6 to 12 weeks would have been even more helpful for us. We had to cobble together leave time during the 10 weeks they were in the neonatal care unit in the hospital, and then four months before they were healthy enough to go into daycare. By doubling the benefit, New Jersey's leaders will help so many more working families dealing with complex health issues or bonding with newborns or adopted children. I applaud Governor Murphy and the bill sponsors, who have made New Jersey a leader on fairness for workers seeking to balance family needs with responsibilities."

The New Jersey Time to Care Coalition is a diverse group of over 100 organizations dedicated to ensuring working people are able to balance caregiving and work responsibilities with dignity and economic security. Our advocacy was instrumental in adoption of the NJ Family Leave Insurance Program in 2008, the NJ Earned Sick and Safe Days law, and the Diane Allen Equal Pay Act.

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