Advocates at Voices for Vermont’s Children are fighting for a universal paid family and medical leave plan for the state. In 2020, they opposed a bill that did not go far enough to guarantee equitable access, and they will push for improved legislation in 2021 through a broad coalition of supporters.
Vermont legislators considered House Bill 107 in 2019 and early 2020. The legislation called for guaranteed paid leave for up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave and up to eight weeks to care for family members. The leave would have been funded by contributions from employers and employees and administered by a private entity. While the bill included some strong components, it did not include paid medical leave for individuals and did not guarantee parental leave for both parents.
Alliance for Early Success ally Voices for Vermont’s Children – along with the other members of the Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FaMLI) Coalition — opposed the inadequate legislation. The FaMLI coalition was formed in 2017 and is led by Main Street Alliance of Vermont and Voices for Vermont’s Children. The coalition includes business leaders, family, healthcare, low-income advocates, and the interfaith community.
Voices published an op-ed and call to action explaining that the bill would prevent future efforts to create more equitable legislation. The FaMLI Coalition also made a statement against the bill, which included testimony from a small business owner and called for specific improvements to the legislation.
The bill was passed by the Vermont House and Senate but was vetoed by the governor. There was a veto override attempt in the house that fell short by a single vote.
“Many asked whether having no benefit is better than an imperfect benefit. That’s the wrong question. The right question is – does the proposed policy dismantle the inequities baked into our economic system so that everyone in Vermont has real access to paid leave?”
Michelle Fay, Executive Director
Voices for Vermont Children
Since the veto of HB 107, the coalition and advocates involved have been pushing for improved legislation. They have communicated their calls to legislators and the governor, emphasizing the holes in medical leave and childcare that have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong new bill – H.134 – has been introduced. However, House and Senate leadership have signaled that they are focused on COVID relief and are unlikely to take it up this year.
“We’re hopeful that the lessons of the pandemic have provided a new perspective on this policy, and that we can pass an equitable, universal, publicly-administered bill that will guarantee coverage for all.” Fay says.