CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s legislators in the U.S. Senate are co-sponsors of a bill that would provide families with access to additional funds during the first year of a child being in a family.
Under the Advancing Support for Working Families Act, families would be allowed to receive funds from child tax credits and cover unpaid time off in addition to other expenses.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., are among the bill’s five sponsors in the Senate; Capito, Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., spoke about the measure during a press conference Wednesday with members of the House of Representatives.
“That first year of life is so tough for the adjustments to the house, the adjustments back into your workplace, getting yourself back to your health as the mother who has given birth or — if it’s an adopted child — recognizing the changes in a family that occur,” Capito said.
“I think this is significant to kind of take the air out of the tense balloon that comes along with maintaining a job, getting back to work, and really creating the best environment for that child.”
Cassidy, the measure’s lead sponsor, said the bill allows a family to pull benefits during the first year of a child’s life or the first year of adoption. A family could receive up to $5,000 for income replacement or child care. In return, a family would see their advanceable amount reduce by a maximum of $500 over 10 years.
A low-income family can apply for either $5,000 or 25% of their earned income, depending on the lesser amount. The offset period can additionally be increased to up to 15 years.
“It’s a widespread belief among Republicans and Democrats that we need to support families in a child’s first year. And this is a bipartisan, bicameral bill and a bill that shows that Congress — a divided Congress — can actually pass something,” Cassidy said.
The United States is one of a few countries that does not offer paid parental leave.
“We’re not going to get all the way to the moon on the first step, but we need to launch the lunar module because we’re behind in the developed world. We’re way behind on this issue,” Capito said. “I think that is difficult for our young families.”
Ivanka Trump, advisor to the president, applauded the bill on Twitter. Paid family leave is one of Trump’s top issues as part of the White House.
“Paid family leave enables parents to balance the competing demands of work and family, pursue their careers, and build strong and thriving families. It is an investment in the future of our workers, our families, and our country,” she said in July 2018.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal advocacy group, criticized the measure, calling it “a loan from families’ own pockets without a guarantee of time off.”
“It forces families to make impossible choices such as caring for their new child or affording expenses of raising their child in the future,” said Shilpa Phadke, vice president of the organization’s Women’s Initiative. “In so doing, the bill undermines the entire point of paid leave: helping workers care for themselves or their relatives without losing their job or economic security.”
Reps. Colin Allred, D-Texas, and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives.