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Lawmakers consider paid family medical leave program

Shaban Athuman
VPM News
The Spottswood W. Robinson III and Robert R. Merhige Jr. U.S. Courthouse is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023 in Richmond.

If passed, the measure would cover 12 weeks of paid leave.

Lawmakers are considering a state-run program to cover up to 12 weeks of paid leave for Virginia workers.

Del. Briana Sewell (D–Prince William) and state Sen. Jennifer Boysko (D–Fairfax) are sponsoring the measure.

“For far too long, people have been forced to make the incredibly difficult decision of caring for someone they love or skipping a paycheck,” Sewell said at a Monday press conference.

The program, which would be administered by the Virginia Employment Commission, would guarantee 80% pay for workers on leave up to 12 weeks to care for a new child, a sick family member, their own health, or a family member in the armed forces.

It would be paid for by employers and employees. The sponsors said the cost for employees would amount to half a percent of a paycheck. Boysko said it would cost less than “a Starbucks coffee.”

Some business groups including the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Retail Federation, and Virginia Food Industry Association oppose the bill, citing uncertainty about the cost to employers — particularly small businesses and businesses that already have paid leave programs.

Boysko said all businesses would be required to pay into the program, but may seek approval for an existing private program that meets the standards set by the state’s insurance.

The bill has received initial approval along party lines from House and Senate committees, and will go to the finance committees next. It has an expected financial impact of $5 million to cover state employees.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.