Christian Group Pushes for Paid Family Leave as Senate Haggles Over How to Pay for It

CCM artist Laura Story pictured with her family.
CCM artist Laura Story pictured with her family. | (Photo: Facebook/Laura Story Music)

A right-of-center Christian group is calling on employers and policy makers to support family leave programs. 

The Center for Public Justice, a Christian civic education and public policy organization that seeks to help citizens and public officeholders respond to God's call to do justice, released a report Tuesday in support of paid family leave as Senate Republicans and Democrats haggle over how to pay for it.

In their report called Time to Flourish: Protecting Families' Time for Work and Care, the CPJ examines the pressures on family time as it relates to employment and seasons of caregiving.

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In addition to urging policy-makers to develop a system of paid family leave so that all workers can attend to seasons of family responsibility, the report recommends that workplaces and public policy alike should protect workers' time to care for family members.

Workplaces, especially faith-based organizations, were also urged to align family-supportive values and workplace practices.

"Today, American families and the institution of the family are under tremendous stress. Family stress includes the struggle to secure family time together, be it after the birth of a child or the ordinary routines of homework and dinnertime. A fast-paced, 24-hour economy enables work at all times of the day or night. Some parents or caretakers worry that they cannot take time off without risking their job or financial stability. These pressures cut into crucial family time together," the report says.

"God did not intend work and family to exist in conflict, but rather to complement one another. God calls humans to both family life and work. Families nurture and manifest the image of God in each person. They provide a critical foundation for a healthy society, raising the next generation of citizens, workers and family members. Work, though also an arena of image bearing, should not absorb the whole of life. God placed limits on work by setting apart the seventh day of creation for rest. Likewise, Christians honor God and make time for family, community and rest by observing the Sabbath and by recognizing the distinct seasons, rhythms and times in human life," the report further notes.

Rachel Anderson, resident fellow with the Center for Public Justice and a co-author of the report along with Katelyn Beaty, former managing editor of Christianity Today magazine said in a release that: "Everyone knows someone who has experienced challenges navigating the boundaries of family time with the dignity of work but so often those conversations happen among family and friends, in the context of expressing worry for a loved one's health, sheer exhaustion or fear of losing a job. We wanted to raise these issues in a larger, faith-based framework."

Stephanie Summers CPJ CEO said: "We believe Christians are called to steward their citizenship in order to shape policies, and cultural norms that honor and protect the family as a socially foundational institution. This report is for Christians who acknowledge that they have a role in advancing the flourishing of families, and offers them a framework so they can take action."

Last Wednesday Senate Family Policy Subcommittee Chair Bill Cassidy predicted that congressional Republicans and Democrats can find common ground this year to enact paid family leave legislation, according to a Forbes report. He noted however that while both Senate Democrats and Republicans also support the legislation a full Senate calendar and disagreements along party lines on how to fund paid time off for workers could thwart making the plan a reality.

Democrats have proposed paying for the paid time off by increasing the payroll tax with a bill called the FAMILY Act.

Republicans have proposed legislation that would take money from the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for the time off. Under that proposal, workers who take paid family leave would have to delay collecting Social Security later in life.

Cassidy argues that the Democratic proposal could affect using higher payroll taxes as a potential solution to projected cuts to Social Security benefits. If nothing is done to revise the Social Security system, says Forbes, benefits would have to be reduced by almost 20 percent in 2034.

"There's limited capability to raise payroll tax to make up for looming trust fund deficit. I'm very concerned about our ability to pay our current obligations (for benefits to retirees)," Cassidy said.

Paid family leave is already required in six states and numerous cities covering 41 million people, according to Forbes.

National Partnership for Women & Families Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies Vicki Shabo said families lose an estimated $20.6 billion in wages each year due to inadequate or no paid leave.

"With paid leave, women are more likely to return to work and to earn higher wages within the year after a child's birth," Shabo said.

Before winning election, six weeks of paid maternity leave was included in President Donald Trump's platform. First daughter Ivanka Trump has been the administration's most vocal supporter of the plan. In an October 2017 White House meeting, Ivanka Trump's chief of staff met with religious conservatives to discuss ways to promote the plan. 

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