By Aysia Morton,
Special to the AFRO

Thousands of workers in Washington, D.C. will see huge increases in the paid leave they receive every year and their employers’ tax rates will drop. At-Large Council member Elissa Silverman (I) made the announcement at a D.C. Council hearing.

According to D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), there will be enough money to fund eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks parental leave, 12 weeks of family leave, and/or 12 weeks of personal medical leave if they have a qualifying medical event starting as soon as July 1, 2022. The District’s current law only allows for up to eight weeks for parental leave, six weeks for family medical leave and six weeks for personal medical leave. On the other hand, employers will have the tax they owe cut by over half, from 0.62 percent of an employee’s salary to 0.26 percent. Worth a total of $202 million.  

“This is validation that paid leave is a win-win-win for workers, employers and our city,” said Silverman. Silverman chairs the Council’s Committee on Labor and Workforce Development and co-authored the {D.C. ‘s Universal Paid Leave} law, which was first introduced in 2015 and officially launched in July 2020. 

In 2020, the {D.C. Government Paid Leave Enhancement Act}, which Silverman wrote with At-Large Councilmember Christina Henderson (I), was co-introduced by all 13 Council members. It provided D.C. government employees with up to 12 weeks of parental or family caregiving leave, as well as personal medical leave and pre-natal leave. A second bill, the {District Government Family Bereavement Act}, introduced by Mayor Muriel Bowser, could provide an additional 10 days of paid leave for D.C. government workers who lose a family member.  

“Universal Paid Leave is an example of what is going right when it comes to D.C. government programs: It was implemented on time in a pandemic, despite some vocal critics. And now it is delivering a tax cut for employers, while giving their workers enhanced benefits,” Silverman said. “The program is working well,” she continued.  

The significant increase in benefits and decrease in employer cost is due to an excess in the city’s paid leave fund. According to Silverman, the law she put into the District’s fiscal year 2022 budget was the catalyst for change. The law required D.C.’s CFO to review projected revenue and expenses of the paid leave program. 

“If the CFO found that employer tax contributions were forecast to exceed the costs needed to sustain the current level of benefits, the law stipulated an incremental expansion of weekly benefits in the program up to 12 weeks for all three categories of parental, family, and personal medical leave. When those benefit levels were reached and deemed sustainable, the CFO would then lower the tax rate accordingly,” said Silverman’s office.  

“I always said the CFO’s cost estimates for the program were way too high, which meant employers paid way too much in tax for what their employees were getting in paid leave benefits and that’s why I put the CFO review into law for this budget,” Silverman said.

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