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Budget reconciliation offers new opportunity for paid family leave. ‘People have been imagining this forever,’ expert says

  • The upcoming budget reconciliation process provides a window for Democrats to address key issues on their agenda.
  • Experts say that a federal paid family leave program is high up on that list.
  • Here's how that plan could shape up, and what it could mean for American workers.

House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at an August 2020 Washington, D.C., rally organized by the “Paid Leave for All” cross-country bus tour.Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Earlier this month, Paid Leave for All wrapped up a two-week nationwide campaign tour that included 10 states and 14 stops.

The goal was to raise awareness for paid family and medical leave for all working Americans.

Now, these advocates see a rare window to get proposed changes through in upcoming budget reconciliation.

"We think the next four weeks are going to be a sprint, and we think this is the year that it has to happen," said Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All.

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The group's campaign was started in late 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. But the broader fight for paid family leave dates back to the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act in 1993.

The Covid-19 pandemic helped raise the conversation on federal paid family leave. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided emergency paid leave to qualifying families, though that expired at the end of last year. Notably, that program provided a tax credit to employers.

That measure had broad bipartisan support. But other proposals, notably the FAMILY Act and President Joe Biden's platform, have not been as widely embraced.

"Republicans speak very glowingly about the idea of paid leave," said Kathleen Romig, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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