Two proposed Virginia laws to provide paid family, medical leave

12-week paid leave to care for children, sick loved ones

ROANOKE, Va. – Two new bills could give working Virginian families the ability to take time off to raise a new child or care for a sick loved one.

Thursday, the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy hosted a roundtable in Roanoke to talk about the bills, Senate Bill 1639 and House Bill 2120, which would:

1. Establish a paid family and medical leave insurance fund.
2. Be funded by matching contributions from employers and employees, totaling a combined         
     1% of the employee's salary
3. Provide up to 12 weeks of funded leave
4. Cover 70% of a worker's average weekly wage up to $850 a week
5. Provide job-protected leave

Troutville native Dean Lugar has had to take unpaid federal leave to care for his wife, Kelly, who had to have a triple bypass surgery in April.

"She is my soulmate," Lugar said. "I don't know what I'll do if something happens to her. She's my life."

Things seemed fine, until July.

"I take her back to the emergency room, and they find out two of the three arteries they repaired have collapsed, and she has 100% blockage," Lugar said.

Lugar said they have enough saved to get by, but they're the exception.

"It would be so horrible to have to worry about the pressure of losing my house and losing everything in addition to losing the only reason I have to live," Lugar said.

Supporters said these bills would level the playing field for small businesses that typically can't afford these employee benefits.

Michael Hamlar runs Hamlar-Curtis Funeral Home. With just 15 employees, he said he understands why businesses may be hesitant to pay more for paid employee leave. However, he's on board with the bills.

"Dollars and cents, yes, it's going to be just a little bit more, but what do you get for that little bit of extra couple of hundred dollars a year," Hamlar said.

His wife had complications after giving birth and had to take unpaid time off work. And Hamlar's mother spent years caring for his father before he passed away.

"My mother worked full time, and she took unpaid time. And during that time, I was young," Hamlar said. "I didn't understand the financial implications of it, but now being an adult and having three small children of my own I really understand the sacrifices that she made."

Campaign leaders are pushing for a vote in the general assembly next year.

"We've had positive conversations with both Democrats and Republicans alike because there is no one that is not affected by this issue," said Tara Gibson, the state director for the Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy.

Lugar's hopeful the bills pass.

"If we can get it fixed and get it covered, so we at least have a buffer, it would be phenomenal," Lugar said. 

About the Author: