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Paid Family Medical Leave Clears First Committee

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, House Bill 6, has cleared its first house committee and now heads the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee this Friday.

AARP New Mexico volunteers visit state legislators' offices.

“One of AARP’s main priorities is finding more resources for our family caregivers, many of which are trying to balance work and caring for a loved one,” said Othiamba Umi, AARP New Mexico’s Advocacy Director.

“Paid Family and Medical Leave could provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to give working family caregivers the much-needed flexibility and resources to care for themselves or loved ones should a serious illness arise and traditional sick leave just isn’t enough,” Umi said.

AARP New Mexico volunteers and staff discuss PFML

Should the bill, a top priority for AARP New Mexico, pass the Commerce Committee it would head to the full House for consideration, but it still must go through the Senate and there is just two weeks left in this year’s Legislative Session.

Sen. Mimi Stewart

However, at the same time, there is a Senate version of the bill also making its way through the process. Senate Bill 3 also passed its first committee, Senate Tax, Business and Transportation, and now heads to Senate Finance. Sen. Mimi Stewart, a co-sponsor, is leading SB 3through the process.

Since it’s a short Session, having the two bills going through the process simultaneously could help save time, especially if one or the other gets hung up in a committee.

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Rep. Linda Serrato

Rep. Linda Serrato, a co-sponsor of the bill, told the House Health and Human Services Committee the plan proposed in the bill has worked well in other states and something similar is needed here.

“We know our folks work hard and take care of our families – it’s fundamental to who we are – it’s in our DNA. We see in the data – we have one of the highest sandwich populations in the nation. We take care of our parents, our elders, we take care of our kids, because that is what we do,” she said.

Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero gave the Committee a real-life example of the need for PFML explaining how she was a member of the working poor struggling to raise her young son as she faced health issues most of her life.

“I feared for the day that I would get ill or he would become ill because we had nothing in terms of paid sick leave or paid family medical leave,” Roybal Caballero said. “I held two jobs to make ends meet.”

Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero

She also said she became a caregiver for both her parents and her in-laws.

“I was faced with having to stop my full-time employment and resort to part-time work in order to care for my parents. They were both very ill and I was their only caregiver. Going from full-time work to part-time impacted, of course, our livelihood,” Roybal Caballero said.

She said she brought up her life experiences because it is what many of New Mexico’s workforce is faced with and the choices they must make on a daily basis – taking care of family or work and HB 6 was aimed at helping families.

Serrato explained the bill stating that both the employer and employee would contribute to a fund in the state treasury and it would allow up to 12 weeks of leave. Should an employee want to take PFML leave, their doctor or the doctor of their loved one would have to issue a note stating why the leave was needed and how long it would be.

“I just want to be clear it is up to 12 weeks. In most states, in most cases, the average is much lower,” she said.

Serrato went on to explain that employers with five or more employees would pay $4, or 4/10 of a percent, for every $1,000 of salary while employees would pay 5/10 of a percent. Employers with less than five employees would be exempt from contributing to the fund.

Rep. Christine Chandler, also a bill co-sponsor, said, “This is not something we just looked up one day and proposed to the community. What we are proposing is very much in line with what are best practices we’ve been able to learn.”

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Rep. Christine Chandler

Chandler said the sponsors looked at other states, professionals in childhood development and elder care to understand how long people need to take leave and things like what criteria should be used when determining who is a member of a family, among others.

Supporters say the bill is a win, win for businesses and employees. With most of New Mexico’s businesses being small businesses, 66 percent of the state’s businesses would not have to contribute to the state fund.

AARP’s research shows that there are fiscal benefits to both workers and employees including:

  • Paid family leave increases employee loyalty and retention – which saves employers money by avoiding separation costs, as well as the costs of recruiting, hiring, and training new workers.
  • It helps family caregivers keep their loved ones out of costly, taxpayer- funded nursing homes, saving the state money.
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