Sweeney, Weinberg Celebrate Four Years Of Paid Family Leave In New Jersey

Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), Majority Leader-Elect Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Senator Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) during a news conference in the State House Annex today joined with marriage equality advocates in announcing legislation to fully recognize same-sex unions as “marriage” under state law will be introduced in the new session as S-1, making it the Senate’s first order of business.

Praise Program For Helping New Jersey Families

TRENTON – Senate President Steve Sweeney, Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and advocates for working families celebrated the fourth anniversary of New Jersey’s historic Paid Family Leave Insurance program by today attending a birthday party in honor of the law. Also joining them at the party was Senator Linda Greenstein, who was a sponsor of the law as an assemblywoman.

“It brings me great joy to know that New Jersey now extends this crucial pro-family support to all of its workers, not just a select few,” said Sweeney. “When my own daughter was born 19 years ago, I was lucky enough to have an employer who understood the situation and allowed me to take the time I needed. But had I been in a different job, I could have faced the prospect of choosing between spending 75 days at the hospital with my newborn, or working to provide for my growing family. Thanks to Paid Family Leave, New Jerseyans no longer have to make that kind of agonizing decision.”

“The facts now clearly show that New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave program has been a resounding success, serving nearly 80,000 workers. It should also be clear by now that we have not sacrificed the needs of business to provide for the needs of New Jersey’s families. This policy has shown that New Jersey can be pro-business and pro-family at the same time,” said Weinberg.

The Paid Family Leave Act permits workers to apply for up to six weeks paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or a sick parent, spouse or child. Family leave benefits are funded by an employee payroll tax. Workers are entitled to two-thirds of their weekly wages up to maximum in 2012 of $572. Since the program began, over 80,000 claims have been approved.

In 2011, surplus of funds allowed for a 50 percent cut in the amount of money employees contributed to paid family leave. The amount paid today still remains below the original .12 percent originally deducted from each paycheck.

The lawmakers were joined by representatives of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, one of the law’s chief advocates. Sweeney, Weinberg and Greenstein credited the AFL-CIO’s support as a key factor in the law’s success.

“The value of this program to workers, from both a financial and social perspective is immense. This program provides wage replacement (2/3rd of salary up to $572 in 2012) so workers don’t have to choose between paying their mortgages and spending time with a new born baby or seriously ill family member when they need it the most – and that is priceless,” said Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey AFL-CIO.

Also attending the party were members of the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition.