Joni Ernst Proposes to ‘Modernize’ Family Leave Benefits for Married Couples

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) proposed bipartisan legislation Thursday to “modernize” family and medical leave benefits for married couples that work for the employer.

Sen. Ernst– a mother, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, and a leader on paid family leave issues– introduced the Fair Access for Individuals to Receive Leave (FAIR) Act, which would modernize the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to expand family leave benefits for married couples.

Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tina Smith (D-MN) also sponsored the legislation.

The Iowa conservative contended America needs to modernize its paid leave benefits for married couples to ensure they have the same level of access to family and medical leave regardless of their employer. She said in a statement Thursday:

As a mom, I understand how important it is for new parents to spend time with their children in their first few weeks together, which is why I’ve helped champion paid parental leave efforts in the Senate. It’s past time we modernize our family and medical leave policies to serve the needs of parents and families in today’s world. This bipartisan bill will extend equal benefits to married couples regardless of their employer, and it also provides time to care for a sick family member, including our heroic servicemembers.

The FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons; however, the law limits the amount of leave that married couples, working for the same employer, could take for spending time at home with their new baby, or taking care of sick family members.

The FAIR Act would repeal the FMLA’s limitation. The bipartisan legislation would also allow eligible couples to take up to 12 work weeks, or 24 total between the married couple, of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for the birth of their son or daughter, adoption of a child, or caring for a parent with a serious illness.

“Marriage is the foundation of civil society and the federal government should not be in the business of punishing marriage,” Sen. Lee said in a statement Thursday. “That is why I am supporting the FAIR Leave Act which would eliminate the existing marriage penalty in the Family Medical Leave Act.”

Ernst has served as one of the leading lawmakers on paid family leave.

Sens. Ernst and Lee introduced the CRADLE Act, which would allow parents to obtain one, two, or three months of leave by postponing their Social Security benefits by two, four, or six months. The Social Security Administration (SSA) examined the financial impact of the legislation and found that the bill would have a “negligible effect” on the long-range health of Social Security.

Sen. Ernst said in an interview with Breitbart News in April that the Republican Party can and should be the party of families.

Paid family leave has served as a growing issue for Republicans. President Donald Trump announced during his State of the Union address that he will work to implement a paid family leave plan. White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump continues to work with Republicans across the spectrum on the issue.

Sen. Sinema said Thursday, “Every Arizona worker deserves the opportunity to spend time with a new child, to care for a loved one, or to provide support to an injured or ill servicemember.”

“Our bipartisan, commonsense bill fixes an error in current law that punishes married couples who work for the same company,” Sinema added.

Read Sen. Ernst’s FAIR Act here.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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