Maine Sen. Mattie Daughtry, a Brunswick Democrat, is seen in this November 2022 file photo. Daughtry, along with Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, is leading a push for paid family leave in Maine. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Paid Family Leave Coalition on Tuesday launched a renewed push for a paid family and medical leave benefit as the Democratic-controlled Legislature takes up the issue.

Maine Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, are leading the effort.

The bill is still being worked out but it’s expected to allow up to 12 weeks of benefit with up to 90 percent of pay, to be funded through a payroll tax divided by workers and employers. The Legislature’s Paid Family Leave Commission recommended that businesses with fewer than 15 workers be exempted from participation.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills wrote and signed a bill into law in 2019 allowing earned sick days for workers, and a spokesperson said she’s awaiting final recommendations from the commission for family leave.

“The governor understands the importance of paid family leave, and she believes it is important that discussions before the Legislature take into consideration the landscape of Maine’s economy and the perspective of Maine employers, particularly small businesses,” Ben Goodman, the governor’s press secretary, said Tuesday.

The federal government passed a law 30 years ago to make family leave an unpaid benefit. Across the country, 11 states including Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island in New England have since put a paid family and medical leave benefit in place.

Across the country, 20 percent of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through an employer and only 42 percent have access to short-term disability insurance, officials said. Nearly one in four mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, and one in five retirees leave the workforce earlier than expected to care for an ill family member, officials said.