Assembly Regulatory Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Reed Gusciora held a hearing before his committee Thursday to examine New Jersey’s paid family leave program, gaining insight from key stakeholders throughout the state to gauge the effectiveness of the program.
New Jersey became just the second state in the nation to offer paid family leave when it enacted a law in 2009 allowing employees to take up to six paid weeks off to care for a new child or sick relative. Participants are allowed to collect two-thirds of their regular pay, however, it is capped at a rate set annually, which was $615 this year.
During the hearing, Gusciora’s committee received testimony from representatives from a host of organizations – including AARP, AFL-CIO, Citizen Action, Rutgers University, NJ Policy Perspective, NJ Main Street Alliance, A Better Balance and the NJ Coalition to End Domestic Violence – who spoke on both the merits and the shortcomings of the programs.
“I’m proud that New Jersey has been a national leader in the area of paid family leave, providing a critical lifeline for families to care for a newborn or a sick relative. However, today’s hearing was extremely helpful in shedding light on the kinks and deficiencies in this program now that it’s been up and running for more than half a decade.
“A number of witnesses today expressed the shared sentiment that six weeks is not nearly long enough, particularly when it comes to caring for a newborn, pointing to the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly suggests that children under 12 weeks of age should not be in daycare. We’re also the only state that doesn’t allow paid family leave to be used to care for an adult child.
“Job protection was another key need that was identified. Although many program participants have not had a problem returning to their job after taking family leave, the law does not specifically guarantee that their job will be protected. For low income workers, in particular, this can be a deterrent from taking advantage of this much-needed program because they’re afraid they might risk their job safety.
“I’m grateful to all those who testified today because I think this program is a strong cornerstone of a healthy state. So, as we look towards the New Year, I hope that my colleagues in the legislature and I can work together to make these issues a priority,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon).