Thank you, Chairman Mendelson. I would like to thank you for scheduling and holding this series of hearings. Your approach to constructing a witness list and timing the hearings on this bill allow everyone to hear diverse perspectives on the “Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015” and get us to the most informed place as we move forward.
At this point, we are all aware that, as introduced, Bill 21-415, “The Universal Paid Leave Act” will establish a fund to enable workers in the District of Columbia or individuals paying into the fund to receive some amount of paid leave for a qualifying event such as birth or adoption of a child, caring for a sick family member, or for self-care. The fund will be supported by payments from employers, the self-employed, and certain individual employees.
As Chairperson of the Committee on Education, I believe that investing in our families will benefit the lives of all of our residents and our city’s children. This bill will help workers take the time they need to support their families or themselves without having to make the hard choice between a paycheck and their immediate health needs. Numerous studies and data have shown that forms of paid leave are good for people of all ages and help to retain a strong and productive workforce.
The economic data we need in order to come to a final conclusion on this legislation is extremely complicated and how we apply those numbers is contentious. We are here today to get as much information as we can to inform the process and ensure that we are aware of exactly what the fiscal and economic impact of this bill will be.
I believe that the long-term effects will be good for our businesses and the economy of the District of Columbia. It will increase a person’s likelihood to return to work after a qualifying event, therefore decreasing the costs associated with employee turnover. It will make the District of Columbia a city where people want to work and have children, and it will give all of our businesses a competitive edge by offering progressive benefits packages at a lower cost than they can now.
During the drafting process and since the first hearing, my office and many others have been using tax data, employee numbers, the data from California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and the preliminary findings of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research which has been studying our current paid leave policies in the D.C. Government. The introduction of this legislation has enabled many of our fiscal partners, who are here today, to create more sophisticated models and deeper sets of numbers, so that we as legislators can determine what is feasible.
As written, the bill has over ten variables that if adjusted would lower the cost of the bill or the burdens on employers or residents. In our conversations about the proposed legislation, I have heard many of the concerns and believe there are shifts that can be made and we are analyzing all of them closely.
As the bill moves through the process at the Council, I am committed to continuing to work closely with our Chief Financial Officer, the Council budget office, Chairman Mendelson, businesses, advocates, and experts to complete the details of what options we have for providing the best amount of paid family and medical leave for the maximum number of D.C. workers.
We have a lot of work to do to get to a final piece of legislation that everyone can be proud of and take responsibility for and that will help all of our workforce and qualifying residents to take the paid time off that they need without creating a new and extreme burden on our businesses.
With that, I want to thank everyone who is here today or is submitting testimony for the record. I appreciate the time that you have all taken, regardless of your position on the bill, to study it and provide us with your feedback.
I look forward to the testimony and engaging in a robust dialogue with the witnesses. Thank you.