Maine needs a statewide paid family and medical leave policy. This year, we have a historic opportunity in the Legislature to boldly improve and invest in Maine’s economy by creating a paid family and medical leave plan by Mainers, for Mainers.

Most developed countries have a national paid family and medical leave policy. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not one of them. As a result, only 15% of American workers have access to any sort of paid leave, and fewer than 60% of the workforce has access to unpaid leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Additionally, more than 120 countries have laws requiring paid maternity leave. But in the U.S., one in four women is forced to take fewer than 11 days of parental leave after giving birth, despite a recommended six- to eight-week recovery period. Not having paid maternity leave also hurts our economy. Women are 50 percent more likely to return to work after giving birth if they have access to this benefit.

The lack of a paid family and medical leave policy hits home right here in Maine. For far too long, countless Mainers have needed to make the impossibly difficult choice between taking time away from work to care for themselves or a loved one, and continuing to work so that they can financially provide for their families.

It’s a dilemma faced by Mainers with an aging parent requiring long-term care who can’t afford the services they need, and one faced by those who want to start a family but can’t take time off to be with their newborn or adopted child. It’s a dilemma faced by those with a spouse or child who has been diagnosed with a serious illness, and those who have been diagnosed themselves.

Not having paid family and medical leave also hurts our state’s economy. We’re seeing a growing “sandwich generation” of Mainers – working adults who are caught between needing to take care of their children as well as their older parents. With a scarcity of child care services and a rapidly aging population, many workers are forced to drop out of the workforce entirely. If we want to be pro-family and pro-workforce, we need this kind of program.


Over the last two years, we co-chaired the Legislature’s Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program. We’re incredibly proud of the work the commission has done to study existing programs in other states, receive public input, develop a plan and make policy recommendations.

Then, we traveled across the state, meeting with over 300 businesses and organizations. We knew that to truly craft a paid family and medical leave program that works for all Mainers, we’d need to hear from every corner of the state to build it together and create a foundation firmly rooted in common ground. After hearing from local business owners, we’ve further moderated our compromise proposal to address their important concerns.

Mainers want us to work together. The paid family and medical leave proposal we have presented last week to the Legislature’s Labor and Housing Committee is a product of years of research and compromise to find a program that will help our state recruit and retain workers, support our working families and set Maine on a better path to improved health and economic well-being, both now and well into the future. We went on the road to listen, and we are still at the table to ensure we produce the right proposal for Maine.

It has been gratifying to meet and work with so many people from across the state with one goal in mind: To create a collaborative paid family and medical leave program that works for Maine. We know that we have an incredible opportunity to get this done, and to do it right – for Maine businesses, for Maine workers, for Maine families. The work hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. This program will be transformational for our state.

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