Marco Rubio has proposed a parental leave bill funded by retirement benefits

New legislation would give employees paid family leave for at least two months. The catch? The money would come from your future Social Security payments.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., unveiled legislation that would give American families federal paid leave for at least two months. The catch? The money would come from your future Social Security payments.

If you choose to withdraw from those monthly wages now, you would have to delay the date at which you can receive Social Security retirement benefits later in life. Calling paid family leave the “social insecurity of our time,” Rubio said his Economic Security for New Parents Act would give families more options to finance the costs of raising a new child.

“No one is required to do this, but everyone will have the option of saying, ‘I’m going to take some of my benefits,’ ” Rubio said. “These are your benefits, not anybody else’s.”

The United States currently does not federally mandate any paid family leave, a position that makes the nation an outlier among developed countries.

What the paid family leave plan will give and cost families

Rubio acknowledges that his plan is a “unique” approach; unlike other plans around the world that force employers to pay for leave, or fund it through taxes, this fund is coming straight from your future self. Critics slammed the bill for forcing families to pick between their kids and their retirement, sacrificing their futures to fund their present.

“A program that only covers parents caring for new children, provides no leave for family care and personal medical needs, and forces parents to choose between paid leave and retirement security is absolutely the wrong way to go,” Debra Ness, the National Partnership for Women & Families president, said in a statement Wednesday.

According to the advocacy group’s survey, the top reasons Americans take family and medical leave today are not to take care of a new child, but to care for their own illness (52%) and to care for a sick family member (31%). Rubio’s bill would only cover childbirth or adoption as conditions to receive family leave.

Rubio’s bill would let parents making below a median family income of about $70,000 to take a two-month leave at over 70% of their wages. But according to analysts, large families would pay for that later. Parents who take four 12-week leaves over their lifetime would lose 10% of their Social Security retirement benefits, according to one April analysis from the Urban Institute about this plan.

This is not the only national paid leave plan in the pipeline. Sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, the FAMILY act proposed in early 2017 would guarantee paid family and medical leave to workers, and would be funded through payroll taxes, a model similar to what California has already passed.

Monica Torres|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at mtorres@theladders.com.