WASHINGTON, DC — Legislation that would give paid leave for a variety of reasons to D.C. workers passed its first vote in D.C. Council Tuesday evening.
The Universal Paid Leave Act was passed by the council by an 11-2 margin. to the delight of the bill’s supporters in attendance.
"We are incredibly pleased, incredibly grateful to the council for their leadership on doing the right things and putting families first in D.C.,” said Joanna Blotner, Campaign Manager with D.C. Paid Family Leave, a organization that supports the bill and had a presence in the council chamber during the vote.
As passed, workers in the District would get up to 16 weeks of paid leave, broken up into three categories: 8 weeks for new or adoptive parents; 6 weeks to look after a sick family member; and 2 weeks for personal medical leave.
The personal medical leave was in the original bill, had been removed, but was re introduced by the bill’s co-sponsor, At-large Councilmember Elissa Silverman.
"I think it’s a fairness issue, in that, if you’re single, let’s say a single mom or a senior who maybe is widowed and still working, they weren’t going to be able to benefit from the bill without personal medical care in there,” said Silverman.
The leave would be paid for by a 0.62% payroll tax on D.C. businesses, excluding the D.C. and federal governments, and would generate an estimated $250 million.
The first year of the leave program isn’t expected until 2020.
Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander initially supported the bill during the Committee of the Whole meeting earlier in the day, but voted no during the legislative meeting, citing concerns about what businesses might do in response to the tax.
"Are they going to cut additional benefits, are they going to reduce their employee pool, are they going to reduce salaries?” said Alexander.
The other no vote came from Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, who said he supports paid family leave, but not this bill.
Among the reasons, an analysis that found Virginia and Maryland residents working in D.C. would be benefit most.
"I just cannot justify paying $166 million to people who live in Maryland and Virginia, so that we can pay $80 million to our own residents. And recognize that it does cover our workers, and so our workers will get paid, but at what cost are we doing that?” said Evans
The bill faces one more council vote on December 20th, at which point it will go to Mayor Bowser’s desk for her signature or veto.
But if the support remains the same the bill will would be veto proof.