Sens. Angus King, I-Maine, and Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, are taking a step toward helping Maine families have more financial peace when facing an addition or dealing with a serious illness.

Late last month, the pair drafted a proposal that would create a tax credit to assist and encourage employers that offer paid family medical leave. Because Maine laws broadly define “family” to include same-sex married couples, domestic partners and cohabiting siblings, the proposal would benefit even nontraditional families.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for major life events such as birth, adoption or serious medical issues. The US is the only developed country in the world that does not offer a federal paid maternity leave program, an issue highlighted by workplace policy advocates and President Barack Obama at a The White House Summit on Working Families.

California and Rhode Island are the only states with paid maternity leave programs, though other states such as Vermont and New Hampshire are looking into similar programs.

If approved, the proposed “The Strong Families Act” would provide employers with tax credits based on how much paid time is offered. An employer would have to allocate at least four weeks of paid leave and would receive a 25 percent tax credit for every hour provided. The more paid time offered, the greater the tax credit.

It’s a proposal both senators say will help create a more robust nation. According to a report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, women are more likely to return to the workforce after having a baby if they’re given paid leave.

“Strong families build strong communities and strong communities are the fiber of a strong nation,” they said in a written statement.

Although some states such as Maine require all businesses to provide the benefits outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act, the national policy only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. However, the Strong Families Act would provide tax credits to employers of all sizes.

King said it’s a chance to modernize the country’s outdated policies and would help families, many which require both parents working full time to make ends meet.

“America’s family leave policies are antiquated and shortsighted. How can we expect to create a world-class workforce that can compete in a global economy if we don’t give our workforce a chance to succeed?” he said. “It’s time that our family leave policies caught up with the realities of a changing world and the demands of a global economy.”

Natalie Feulner

Natalie Feulner is a journalist and “semi-crunchy” cloth diapering momma to a rambunctious toddler named after a county in California. She drinks too much tea and loves to climb rocks but not at the...