By KEVIN DERBY
This month, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. has focused on pushing his proposal to expand parental leave.
Earlier in August, Rubio unveiled the “Economic Security for New Parents Act” which gives new parents the option to use some of their Social Security funds to take at least two months of paid parental leave. Rubio’s office released a one pager on the proposal.
“The benefit amount is large enough that nearly all parents making below median family income of about $70,000 will be able to take two months leave at over 70 percent of their wages,” Rubio’s office noted. “Many parents, especially those with low incomes, will be able to finance longer than three months of leave with the amount of the benefit. Two-parent households will be able to transfer their benefit to their spouse.”
Rubio’s office has also outlined how the program would work.
“Expecting parents will file an application with SSA,” Rubio’s office noted. “Upon verification of the parent’s eligibility, SSA will notify parents of their expected eligibility for the parental leave benefit. After the birth or adoption of the child, approved parents will provide SSA with additional documentation, and upon verification SSA will remit the parental leave benefit. The benefit will be delivered in two monthly payments of equivalent size.”
Rubio has been taking to the national stage to promote the policy, Earlier this month, he appeared on “Face the Nation” on CBS to talk about the proposal.
“Senator, how many people would this affect?” Norah O’Donnell from CBS News asked.
“Well, it depends on how many people want to take the option,” Rubio said. “Let me start by explaining the why, why are we doing this. There’s nothing we can do for our children that is better than allowing their parents to spend more time and be more involved in their lives, especially from the early days. I think it’s wrong that we’ve all seen this, people that work somewhere and they have a child and within two weeks of the cesarean section or three weeks of giving birth have to hurry up to work because they can’t afford to miss one paycheck. In fact it’s startling how many parents, particularly first-time mothers and people who just had a child in their family go on public assistance because they lose their job or they can’t draw a paycheck any longer. So what we’re doing is giving people an option. No one is required to do this but everyone will have the option of saying I’m going to take some of my benefits. These are your benefits, not anybody else’s and take a portion of that now. People can do that now with their 401(k)s. You should be able to do that with Social Security.”
“Senator, I was fascinated to learn that it’s estimated that just over one in ten workers received paid family leave from their employers. That’s not a lot, and certainly people need paid family leave. Why though, do you want it to come from social security?” O’Donnell asked.
“Well, I prefer it come from the private sector, but as you just said, only one out of ten have it,” Rubio replied. “I hope that number will grow over the years, and by the way, the irony is, the more money you make the likelier you are to have it, and the less money you make, the less likely you are to have it. So if you’re making $300,000 a year at an investment bank, you probably have paid family leave, but if you’re making $45,000 a year working for a small business, who probably can’t afford to provide it, you do not have it. As far as coming up from there, if somebody has a better idea, we’re open to it. If they have a better idea that doesn’t raise taxes, we’re all open for it. But I can tell you that this is a real problem. If we are serious in this country about helping our children, it begins from the day they are born by allowing their parents to be involved in the early days of their lives, especially. And that should not be a bankruptcy-inducing event. This is one option that we think is pretty creative, to allow people to take their money and instead of waiting thirty years to get some of it take some of it earlier when they really need it.”
“Senator, isn’t this really asking working class Americans to choose between retirement security and caring for a new child?” Alex Wagner from CBS News asked.
“No,” Rubio replied. “Ultimately right now they don’t even have a choice at all of how they’re going to pay for their bills at the front end. Many people right now, if you have a child, your job is required to give you twelve weeks of paid leave but they don’t have to pay you. So you’re basically without any pay for four to eight weeks, most people can’t afford that. We have many people going on public assistance. So this is just an option, no one is forced to do this. Some people will decide they don’t want to do it, that it doesn’t make sense for them, but it’s an option that’ll be available for people. As it stands today, if we do nothing, you’ll continue to see as you said nine out of ten workers will basically not draw any income during that period of time. And it’s a real economic strain right now.”
U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., is the House sponsor of Rubio’s bill and the two of them penned a piece on their proposal which appeared in USA Today at the start of the month.
Last week, Rubio unveiled a new video on his proposal.
“A healthy America is marked by the spirit of our youth. It is true and it will always be true. The heart and the soul of our nation is in our young people fighting for new and innovative ideas that apply the principles of conservatism to the challenges of the 21st century: like our successful effort to expand the child tax credit or allowing new parents to use their Social Security benefits for paid family leave if their employer does not provide it,” Rubio says in the video.
“It allows new parents to be able to afford taking leave from work by giving them the option to basically pull forward a small portion of their future Social Security benefits. It will allow all new parents to take two or three months or more of paid parental leave at levels that in some cases will be at 70 or even 80 percent of their regular income,” Rubio continues. “We need to do everything we can to help our children. I don’t think that’s an issue that has a left or a right. All Americans want their children to have a better future and there is nothing that is better for children than to have parents who are involved in their lives. And that is especially true in the early weeks of their lives.
“Right now, for millions of children who are born into working families, that isn’t what’s happening. It is hurting our children to have parents who can’t afford to be with them after they’re born. And the overwhelming majority of parents, 85 percent, at least, do not get paid because of a newborn child. This plan does not grow government, it doesn’t threaten the stability of Social Security, it doesn’t raise taxes on a single American. A plan that gives millions of Americans an option that allows them to spend more time with their newborn child without having to face financial catastrophe,” Rubio continues.
“The future of our liberty and of our prosperity is not destined to just happen on its own. But it’s also not destined to decline,” Rubio concludes in the video. “Our tomorrow, your tomorrow will largely be shaped by what we do and by what we failed to do. Parents should be able to use their own money to help start and raise a family.”
Since bringing out the bill, Rubio has not been able to reel in additional cosponsors in the Senate. The bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee.