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Local News

Senate Bills Seek to Provide Michiganders With Paid Family and Medical Leave

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by Lily Guiney, Michigan Advance

If passed, two bills in the Michigan Senate could allow employees around the state up to 15 weeks of paid leave from work to deal with family and medical issues.

Senate bills 332 and 333, introduced by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), would provide a state-level replacement for the federal Family Medical Leave Act. Signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993, the act requires employers with at least 50 workers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family and medical reasons.

Geiss’ package would create the Michigan Family Optimal Coverage Act (FLOC), a paid leave insurance program. 

Geiss said in a statement that the creation of FLOC would be a 21st century update to previous family leave policies. She said that providing paid leave would have an especially positive impact on marginalized communities.

“MI FLOC is a critical bill to address the issues faced by all people, but especially Black, brown and low-wage earners, who at some point in their career will need to take a significant amount of time to care for themselves or their loved ones,” Geiss said. 

Mothering Justice, a Detroit-based nonprofit that advocates for the political empowerment of mothers of color, released a statement in support of the bills. Aisha Wells, Mothering Justice’s director of organizing, said that paid leave is crucial to ensuring economic justice and fairness. 

“It is a sad reality that paid leave is completely out of reach for too many Michigan families today, especially folks who are Black, brown and low-income,” Wells said. “Paid family leave is a necessity that allows parents and caregivers to take care of themselves and their families.” 

Michigan FLOC would allow employees to take leave from work to care for themselves or their families, and would include a variety of reasons one might need time off. Standard reasons for leave like bereavement and childbirth would be expanded under the bills to include school or workplace closures due to public health emergencies, mental health issues, and school meetings related to student health and wellbeing. 

Recipients of paid leave benefits would be eligible to receive up to 65% of the state’s average weekly wage, which according to data from the 2022 fiscal year would be up to $780 per week. 

Mothering Justice said that if the bills are passed, Michigan would become a “national leader” in providing paid family leave. According to the nonpartisan Center for American Progress, only 11 states currently have some form of paid family leave, and that only one in four Americans working in the private sector has access to paid family leave. 

Policies like FLOC have been part of Mothering Justice’s advocacy work for years; the organization recently marked the 30th anniversary of the federal unpaid leave policy by calling upon lawmakers to update Michigan’s family leave infrastructure. 

“Nobody should have to risk being fired from their job to take care of themself or their loved ones,” Wells said. 

This story was written by Lily Guiney, a reporting intern at the Michigan Advance, where this story first appeared.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: info@michiganadvance.com. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.