How California plans to extend entry to Paid Household Go away to assist early childhood – Each day Democrat

By Karen D’Souza, EdSource

California became the first state in the nation to offer parents paid family vacations in 2014. More than a quarter of a million parents now use this lifeline to look after their newborns every year.

However, low-income parents are often the least likely to benefit from paid leave, research shows. The new California Master Plan for Early Learning and Care is a 10-year plan for incremental reform of early childhood and education. The cost ranges from $ 2 billion – to make some improvements – to $ 12 billion to completely overhaul the state system. The report, commissioned by Governor Gavin Newsom, suggests three key avenues to bridge the gap between those vital dollars and the parents who need them most. The critical recommendations range from increasing payouts and length of vacation to helping small businesses while employees are away.

“This is not a luxury problem at all. Spending time caring for your family when they need you is a very basic issue, ”said Jenya Cassidy, director of the California Work & Family Coalition, a statewide advocacy group. “It can make a huge difference in your life.”

Attachment to the baby is only the tip of the iceberg, proponents say. Paid vacation can have a significant impact on the well-being of families with newborns, according to studies. Taking this time off has a number of benefits, from reducing maternal stress to reducing hospital stays for infants to increasing breastfeeding. The program promotes overall maternal and child health, which can have lifelong benefits.

The first year of life is a critical phase for brain development. Experts say a child’s brain doubles during this time. From an educational perspective, this early brain development can be essential and form the basis of all future learning, as research shows, from academics to careers. According to proponents, parents play a key role in triggering this growth.

“Paid family vacation is an important part of the early childhood arena and is of paramount importance to low-income families,” said Sarah Crow, executive director of the First 5 Center for Children’s Policy, a nonprofit advocating for children. “It’s always been like that, but it’s even more important now when many families are at a breaking point.”

Right now, as the Covid pandemic has cast a harsh light on the inequalities in American life, it is clear, according to proponents, that access to family vacations remains a critical issue.

“Paid family leave schemes have the power to lift people out of poverty, but only if the lowest-income Californian has the opportunity to take advantage of the program,” said Bridget Shea, US Paid Vacation campaign manager in California, an organization who advocates paid vacation. “Californians working from paycheck to paycheck.”

Right now, money is the biggest obstacle facing low-income parents who are not taking paid vacation. Proponents give up part of their salary to stay at home with an infant and place undue stress on these families who are already struggling to survive. Currently, the program, funded from employee pay slips, only provides 60% to 70% of income. Proponents say that many low-wage workers pay into the system but never use it.

“For low-wage workers, that’s just not enough to feed your family. It’s not enough to make a living, ”said Crow. “It is ridiculous.”

The core reform, as outlined in the master plan, is to raise the payout for low-income workers to 90% of wages. Because part of the benefit is non-taxable, most workers would get 100% of their normal pay to go, the report said. The cost associated with expanding paid family vacation is estimated at several hundred million dollars, according to the report’s authors.

“Increasing the wage replacement rate for low-income families means more families will not have to choose between rent, food and transportation,” said Shea, “and being there for their families.”

As with many reforms in the master plan, the guidelines are expected to be introduced gradually over time. Another important recommendation is to extend the start time. The vacation had already been extended from six weeks to eight weeks in July when Senate Bill 83 entered.

“It would be ideal to give families longer paid leave to care for their children,” the report says, although no duration is given.

Experts typically recommend around six months for maximum health benefits for children and mothers.

The report also suggests providing support to small businesses, such as resources for training existing workers or hiring temporary workers while workers are on vacation.

“Small business owners understand the need to be home when a new baby arrives and they are grateful that they don’t have to pay for it,” says Crow, “but sometimes they need help figuring out how to keep the business going can. ”

It’s important to note that the California Paid Family Vacation Program applies to all employers regardless of size, but until recently the California Family Law Act, which allows employees to take sheltered vacation leave, has not. Before, you had to work for an employer with at least 20 employees in order to be entitled to occupational health and safety. While you may have been eligible for the free time, proponents say you may have decided against it out of fear of losing your job.

“No one is more likely to think they might be fired for leisure than low-income workers,” said Cassidy. “There is a great need for more education and public relations regarding these fundamental rights.”

The passage of Senate Act 1383 this summer, one of the governor’s task force recommendations on Paid Family Vacation, extended that protections to businesses with five or more employees.

“That was a real win,” said Crow, “because the benefits expanded to an additional 6 million people.”

She also points out that more needs to be done to streamline the process of applying for paid family leave as the bureaucracy can be difficult to navigate.

“There are many barriers to low-income families,” said Crow. “Raising pay is vital, but we also need to build awareness and confidence. The paperwork can be challenging and tiresome. It’s not as user friendly as it could be. “

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