Paid Family and Medical Leave bill would give new parents more time off

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - New parents could get up to 12 weeks paid time off if a new bill gets through the legislature. It's about paid family medical leave and if passed, it would require employees to provide six weeks to care for others and three months to care for a new child or your own serious health conditions.

One Lincoln family recently welcomed their second child, and while they say she is a blessing, six weeks without pay causes a strain on many fronts.

McKinlee is the Whitsell's second daughter, and the second time their mother, Sheena, had to take unpaid maternity leave.

"I took eight weeks and it was also unpaid," said Whitsell. "But the second time around I took out short term disability to help with our finances during maternity leave."

Finances that Sheena says can distract from the joy of a new baby.

"You have this new little life and then you throw financial burden on top of that," said Whitsell. "Not getting paid for two months can kinda take away from the joy of having a baby because you're concerned about finances, and how we’re gonna make ends meet."

The Paid Family and Medical Leave bill aims to help with these concerns. To start, the money would come from the Health Care Cash Fund. After that it would be covered by employer contributions. Workers would be paid on a sliding scale of up to $564 dollars a week. One of the bill's sponsor's - Senator Sue Crawford.

"It provides an opportunity for those families to spend some time with their newborn child," said Crawford. "Or an elderly parent or somebody in their family that has a medical need and be able to then return to their job."

Sheena says if she ends up having a third child, the passing of this bill would make bringing baby number three home a little bit easier.

"I think it would be amazing," said Whitsell. "It would take the stress away, the financial stress and you could just focus on your baby and being a mom."

A timeline for the bill, if it were to pass, would have employers begin contributions to the fund in January of 2021 and benefits starting in July of the same year.

Read the full bill text