Patty Kidder had a stillborn child in 1990, which she believes happened because she couldn’t afford to not work. Then five years later her husband became very ill and she could only work part time because the couple had two toddlers, leading to bankruptcy. She says paid family leave would have averted both those crises. “What happened to us, shouldn’t have to happen in this country,” said Kidder, a semi-retired tax preparer who volunteers for the Maine People’s Alliance. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Amy Frances Leblanc, the owner and operator of a small farm in Wilton, would have taken paid family leave to care for her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1999, if she could have.

And when Patty Kidder of Springvale was pregnant with her first child in 1990, her doctor ordered bed rest for her, but it was the busy season at a Shapleigh marina where she worked. It only had three employees, so she had to keep working. She believes not being able to rest was part of the reason her baby was stillborn. Five years later, her husband, Roger, was on disability with a major medical condition, and she could only work part-time because she was caring for two toddlers and her husband, leaving the family with little income.

They ended up going bankrupt. Kidder believes the family wouldn’t have suffered financial ruin if they’d had access to paid family leave.

“What happened to us, shouldn’t have to happen in this country,” said Kidder, 64, a semi-retired tax preparer and part-time organizer with the progressive advocacy group Maine People’s Alliance. “(Paid leave) has been a long time coming, but it’s been needed forever. I am so grateful people going forward will have this.”

Stories similar to Kidder’s and Leblanc’s were aired throughout the halls of the State House in Augusta for months as lawmakers wrangled over whether to pass the paid family leave bill, which was spearheaded by Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston.

Gov. Janet Mills – after months of staying neutral on the bill – announced her support for paid family leave in an op-ed in Thursday’s Press Herald, making passage of the pending bill all but certain. Mills had previously demanded changes, which were largely incorporated into the bill, to make it more business friendly. Maine would join 12 other states and Washington, D.C., with paid family leave if Mills’ signs the bill as expected and the law is implemented in 2026.


The program would allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for newborns, for a family member with a medical condition, for the worker’s long-term illness, and for a few other qualifying reasons. If the bill had not passed, the Maine People’s Alliance and Maine Women’s Lobby, which had previously gathered 80,000 signatures to place the issue on the ballot, would have submitted petitions for a November 2024 referendum.

If the bill clears the final hurdles and becomes law, organizers say they would forgo the ballot referendum.


For Leblanc, Whitehill Farm currently employs two part-time workers, so most of the work falls to her as both the business owner and a self-employed worker.

And in 1999, Leblanc’s mother had Alzheimer’s disease and her health was rapidly deteriorating.

Her mother needed constant care, Leblanc said. Leblanc and her husband, Michael Leblanc, were helping as much as they could. But at that time, when the farm was a more demanding operation, it was a lot for the family to juggle.


In 2000, Leblanc’s father made the decision to send his wife to a nursing home.

“He didn’t want us to have to take over the whole job,” Amy Frances Leblanc said.

Leblanc, then in her early 50s, had the capacity to care for her mother full time. But with a farm to run, “we knew there were limits,” she said.

If there was a statewide paid family leave law 24 years ago, she said she would have felt differently.

“I would have appreciated at least being able to have her home longer,” she said. “And I know my father would have, too. It would have made a difference.”

And now that she’s 75, Leblanc said paid leave provides an additional safety net for the unknown that is to come.


“When you’re 75, you have no idea what’s going on. Everything changes right around the corner,” Leblanc said.

Kidder said she will never forget delivering a stillborn in the morning, going to work at the marina that same afternoon, and then watching her husband have a mental breakdown – related to losing the baby – later that afternoon and having to be hospitalized.

“I couldn’t take the time off. The marina needed me, and I couldn’t afford to take the time off,” Kidder said.

Cate Blackford, public policy director for the Maine People’s Alliance, said at some point in their lives, many families will need paid family leave.

“It’s a huge relief to know that people are no longer going to be asked to decide between their financial security and caring for their families,” Blackford said.



Daughtry, the bill’s co-sponsor, also co-owns a small business, Moderation Brewing in Brunswick.

She was canning beer on Thursday – the Wicked Crispy and Farmor brands that use all-Maine ingredients – and Daughtry said for small businesses like Moderation Brewing, being able to offer paid family leave will be a game-changer.

Sen. Mattie Daughtry, co-sponsor of the family leave bill and co-owner of Moderation Brewery in Brunswick said the bill, will spread out the costs of paid family leave and make the benefit more affordable to small businesses. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“Once this program goes live (in 2026), it’s going to have a massive benefit for our businesses and their employees,” Daughtry said.

While some large businesses currently offer paid leave as part of their benefits package, for many small businesses, including Moderation Brewing, it’s cost-prohibitive, Daughtry said. The bill, once signed into law, will spread out the costs and make the benefit more affordable to small businesses, helping with recruiting and retaining workers, she said.

A business with 50 employees who each earn $50,000 per year would pay roughly $10,000 in taxes into the program. Those same workers each would pay about $200 per year.

And companies with 15 or fewer employees would be exempt from paying into the payroll tax, although their workers would still pay into the program and be able to claim the benefit. Payouts would be 90% of income up to half of the state’s average weekly wage, totaling $466. For every dollar earned above that, it would be paid at 66% of the state’s average weekly wage, and payouts would be capped at the state average weekly wage, which is currently $1,036.


But some business groups, including the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, have criticized paid family leave.


Western Maine Supply Co. in Bethel has mostly avoided the acute workforce shortages impacting businesses across the state, co-owner Braydon Rice said.

Rice, in an interview, said didn’t know that a statewide paid family and medical leave bill was under consideration by the Legislature. He also didn’t know that with support from Mills and initial approval from both chambers of the Maine Legislature, it would likely become a law in the near future.

Elizabeth Arruda, who owns a small inn in Kennebunk, opposes the family leave bill because she believes it will exacerbate the staffing challenges that small and seasonal businesses already face. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Now that he does know, Rice is concerned about the future of his business, a lumber, retail and hardware store.

Rice is less focused on the payroll tax component of the bill, and more worried about how paid leave could disrupt his staffing.


“Now with the staffing shortage we are already facing, that would be even harder,” he said.

The bill limits paid leave to situations like an individual being sick, needing to take care of a newborn, or being a caregiver for other family members, among other reasons.

“I can certainly think of every single year that I’ve been alive that one of those would fall into place for myself. I could utilize that 12 weeks every year and you really couldn’t argue with it,” Rice said.

Elizabeth Arruda, owner of a small Kennebunk inn, also is unhappy with the law and fears that it puts even more pressure on the small businesses that operate seasonally.

Small business owners that have come out in support of the law say that it will help their businesses compete with large companies that already offer these packages and retain employees amid staffing shortages.

But Arruda said that logic doesn’t apply to seasonal businesses like hers.


“Every year, we have to staff up with seasonal employees. So it’s new hiring every single spring,” Arruda said. “Sometimes we get people to return and sometimes not.”

It’s the employees who don’t return that Arruda is concerned about. She’s not suspicious that current employees would take unfair advantage of the law. And she’s not going to go into the spring with the expectation that new hires will take advantage, either.

But Arruda said she can’t help but worry, what if they do?

Amid mounting workforce shortages, hiring is already a struggle for Arruda. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arruda had to reduce her available rooms by 25% to account for an incomplete staff. Challenges with hiring staff that stick around for the inn’s entire season, from the spring through the fall, has persisted ever since.

“It’s a never-ending dilemma,” Arruda said.

She’s also noticed the pressure build for the employees who do stick around.


“(Workers leaving) is not only a detriment to the business, but it’s because everybody else has to pick up the slack – and they can only do so much,” she said.

Arruda worries that this law, which she believes should be less vague and have some exceptions for small businesses, will only make things worth.

“I feel like it’s disappointment in legislation that is not well thought out,” she said.


Craig Bramley, part owner and managing director of the Portland law firm Berman and Simmons, doesn’t buy the argument that it will harm small businesses, either financially or in the tight labor market.

“I reject the idea that in some way, the importance of the business outweighs the needs of people’s own interest in their health and attending to their loved ones,” he said. 


Plus, replacing skilled employees who have to leave their jobs because they have responsibilities or health concerns at home is a much bigger problem than losing someone for a few days or weeks, he said. 

Berman and Simmons offers paid family and medical leave benefits that generally exceed what’s outlined in the bill, as do many companies that employ professional or highly compensated workers. Those same benefits should be available to everyone, regardless of their industry, Bramley said. 

“Life happens and unfortunate events come up for all of us and come up in unpredictable ways,” he said. “Not everyone has the nest egg or the means to put work aside and take care of their loved ones. This just provides a backstop and gives people the time they need.” 

Leblanc, for her part, is happy that her employees will be able to support themselves in the event that they need to take leave. She currently has one employee who is a minimal caregiver for a family member, but anticipates the degree to which she is needed could change at any point.

“I can see that turnabout and she would appreciate it, because family leave comes in all sorts of different situations,” she said.

Leblanc admits her opinion is shaped by the fact that she only has two part-time employees that aren’t essential to the business.


Even so, she believes she would still support the law if she had a bigger staff because of the compassion she has for people who need that financial fallback. It’s a compassion she said was built not only through the experiences as a caregiver for her mother, but also on the receiving end with her foster daughter, who was able to come to Wilton and provide temporary care thanks to Massachusetts’ own paid family leave law.

“If people have never experienced the need to do acute family care, they don’t get it. And I think that that informs people’s opinions,” Leblanc said.

Leblanc also admits that the bill is complicated and might be in need of some tweaks. But she has faith that in any form, it will benefit Mainers in some way.

“It can be made to work because caregiving is the least appreciated and most ignored thing that I can possibly imagine,” Leblanc said. “There is assistance that’s seriously needed.”

Staff Writer Hannah LaClaire contributed to this report.

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