On August 2, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) proposed the “Economic Security for New Parents Act,” a bill which would amend Title II of the Social Security Act to provide paid parental leave benefits to parents following the birth or adoption of a child. The attempt to address relief for new parents is long overdue, as the United States is one of the only countries (alongside Swaziland, Australia, and Papua New Guinea) which does not provide paid parental leave. At present, those unable to work due to pregnancy or childbirth may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, but many find these safeguards insufficient.
The proposed bill would enable a parent to draw from Social Security benefits to take at least 2 months of paid time off, but at a reduction in their Social Security benefits to cover those costs. Applicants would need to provide some proof about the anticipated birth or parenthood, as well as adequate (60 days) notice to their current employer. Claimants must also have paid into the system (working for roughly 2 years prior to the birth or adoption of their child) enough to receive the benefit. The approach does not appear dissimilar from the current provisions for disability.
However, opponents criticize the bill as redirecting Social Security funds instead of reducing spending, though the stated purpose of the original Social Security Act is “to make more adequate provision for aged persons, blind persons, dependent and crippled children, maternal and child welfare,” as well as raise revenue. Others claim the bill penalizes claimants by imposing a reduction in retirement benefit amounts, pointing to projections that taking 12 weeks at half pay would mean foregoing 25 weeks of retirement. Notwithstanding, parents who are unable to work due to family leave would not be paying into the system anyway. Shouldn’t they at least have the option to decide how they wish to finance their new family?