Amid the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a tumultuous election, some family friendly laws have actually been passed, and go into effect in 2021.
Most center around expanding or extending family leave durations and benefits. While the federal government has family leave legislation on its books, it leaves the implementation of the programs to the states. Thus, some states have more robust policies, and some are expanding upon them during this time of crisis. Plus, the fed’s COVID-19 protections and aid expired at year’s end; much of this legislation just keeps them going in some form.
Some law changes, like increasing the minimum wage, indirectly affects low income families by boosting income.
California has gone far to try and support families suffering through this pandemic. The most notable change is SB-1383.
This law expands family leave by bringing a broader definition to “family.” Workers may request leave to care for a domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent in law with serious health conditions. It also expands who might request the leave, making it illegal for a business owner with more than 50 workers to refuse a family leave request from an employee who logged in at least 1250 hours during the previous annual period.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, the author of the bill, said federal family leave tied to the coronavirus pandemic, which expires at the end of the year, excludes about 80% of the workforce. The expiration of the federal bill will leave many families vulnerable as the pandemic continues to spread. SB-1383 also addresses the needs of the LGBTQ community, veterans, and those living in multigenerational homes (who are often more likely to be exposed to the virus).
In addition to family leave, in 2021, the California minimum wage will increase again. Effective January 1, 2021, employers with 25 or fewer employees must increase the minimum hourly wage to $13.00 (increased from $12.00 per hour), while employers with 26 or more employees must pay a minimum wage of $14.00 per hour (increased from $13.00 per hour).
Starting January 1, 2021, employees in Massachusetts may begin to apply for and receive paid leave under the state’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) law. Most Massachusetts workers will be eligible to take up to 26 weeks of paid leave per benefit year under the new law.
The new rules include:
- up to 20 weeks for a worker’s own serious health condition
- up to 12 weeks for the worker to
- a) bond with a child after the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement, or
- b) address a need arising out of a family member’s active duty or impending call to active duty in the armed forces
- up to 26 weeks for the worker to care for a family member who is a covered servicemember with a serious health condition
Plus, starting on July 1, 2021, eligible workers may also take up to 12 weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
In New York
New York already has state mandated Paid Family Leave, which Governor Andrew Cuomo signed in 2016. It gradually increased the number of weeks of extended time to care for a loved one over the last four years.
In 2021, a new measure now expands it from 10 to 12 weeks, allowing families to take extended time off to care for a newborn, a family member with a serious health condition such as COVID-19, or take care of other loved ones when another family member is on active military service. Under the new measure, employees can receive two-thirds of their weekly pay: up to a maximum of $971.61 a week.
In good news for NY new parents, the Child Parents Security Act takes effect February 15, allowing the “intended” parents of children born through sperm or egg donation, embryos, or surrogacy full parental rights that include medical decisions.
For families with insulin dependent members, Illinois has instituted a cap on the price.
Insurance companies must now limit the total amount a person is required to pay for insulin to $100 for a 30-day supply.
Every child now born or adopted in Illinois will get $50 deposited in their college savings account or 529 plan. Lawmakers want to use this as a reminder to parents to start saving for college at birth. High school graduates who do not use the money by the time they’re 26 will have to forfeit the $50 back to the state.
Illinois also raised its minimum wage to $11 per hour. The workers also saw bumps Jan. 1, 2020, and July 1, 2020. The pay increase will continue until it reaches $15 per hour Jan. 1, 2025.