Vermont legislature considers paid family leave act

MONTPELIER, Vt. —

The Vermont House is considering a bill that would create mandatory paid family leave for employees.

“It was absolutely imperative that I was there for my child,” said Erin Stillson-Wolf, who was working in the food industry when she had her daughter, Lilli, 11 years ago.

“Paid time off, let alone time off to have a child, is just laughable, it's just not something that happens in that industry at all,” she continued.

Stillson-Wolf had to quit and her family lived on a single income.

“That meant $14,000 a year to live, which was a huge sacrifice, but it was either live in extreme poverty or not be there for my child in her first few weeks of life,” Stillson-Wolf said.

Three years ago, she made that same decision when her son was born. Now she's supporting a bill that would create a family leave insurance program to give employees 12 weeks paid family leave.

 

The House bill was introduced with bipartisan support, but not everyone thinks it's a good idea.

“We need to be able to pay for whatever is coming through,” said Rep. Ronald E. Hubert, (R-Chittenden-10) and a small business owner. “Unless we are given the opportunity to make more money, how are we going to pay for more mandates?”

As written, the legislation would fund the leave by contributions from employers and employees. The governor says he won't sign any bill that would raise taxes or fees. Still, Stillson-Wolf said this bill would be worth it.

“It just makes me want to cry what people have to go through just to feed their families and take care of them,” Stillson-Wolf said.

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