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AARP AARP States New Mexico

Supporters Vow to Continue the Fight for Paid Family and Medical Leave

AARP New Mexico staff and volunteers gathered Thursday with other supporters to discuss the future of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. Senate Bill 11 was one of AARP’s priorities for the 2023 Legislative Session.

Despite being passed by the Senate, the bill was tabled by the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee earlier this week, ending the bill for this Session.

Sen. Mimi Stewart discusses the future of Paid Family and Medical Leave
Sen. Mimi Stewart discusses the future of Paid Family and Medical Leave

“Providing family caregivers with more resources, especially those that allow them to continue to work while caring for a loved one, is a top priority for AARP,” said Othiamba Umi, AARP New Mexico Advocacy Director.

“The Paid Family Medical and Leave Act would mean family caregivers could take care of a loved one without worrying about losing their pay – or even their job,” Umi said.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Mimi Stewart, Rep. Christine Chandler, Rep. Linda Serrato, Sen. Michael Padilla, Sen. Katy Duhigg, Sen. Leo Jaramillo, Sen. Peter Worth and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero.

Despite the setback the bill’s main sponsors and supporters came together to commit to bringing the legislation back next year, calling a press conference to publicly state they would continue to work on the legislation with the support of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

AARP New Mexico stands in support of Paid Family and Medical Leave
AARP New Mexico stands in support of Paid Family and Medical Leave

The bill was controversial, drawing concerns from the business community and others about its impact on businesses, with opponents saying businesses were still recovering from the pandemic and dealing with last year’s passage of mandatory paid sick leave.

Rep. Christine Chandler, however, said, “The timing supposedly isn’t right now. I would contend that now is the right time when we have learned so much from the COVID crisis. We have learned how important having the availability of leave is for families that have been impacted by illness, pregnancy, adoption – anything that impacts the family.”

Chandler said they adjusted the bill to delay implementation so that the Department of workforce solutions could stand up a well thought out program and for businesses to adjust and would continue to work with businesses in the interim.

She also stood firm that paid family medical leave would help small businesses and the economy in the long run, stating that there was a lot of misinformation being dispersed that scared businesses.

Sen. Mimi Stewart said she talked Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Wednesday, who pledged her support for paid family medical leave.

“The governor said to me, ‘This is a policy I want to implement in New Mexico. This is a sound policy for our families and our workers.’,” Stewart said. “She pledged to work with us in the interim and continue to craft this. So we have the governor’s support on this.”

The bill would require both businesses and employees to pay into a state fund. The employer would pay .4 percent and the employee .5 percent of every $1,000 earned. The fund would then cover up to 67 percent of the employee’s salary while they are on leave – in part as an incentive for the individual to return to work as soon as possible.

Rep. Linda Serrato speaks on the benefits of Paid Family and Medical leave

Rep. Linda Serrato addressed concerns about the fund’s solvency brought up in the House committee hearing.

“Only one state (that currently has the program) was non-insolvent and had to fix it because they did not include employers adding to the fund and that made a real problem for them. They only added employers (with over 50 employees) and that is why ours is significantly lower,” Serrato said.

She said the sponsors have learned from different states and took those lessons into account when drafting the New Mexico bill to ensure that the program had time to be implemented, that the fund would be solvent, and would serve both businesses and employees.

“That is why we feel so strongly that – this is a good bill and anything to counter that is just misinformation. Because it is based on a lot of lessons already,” Serrato said.

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.
  • In states that have enacted paid family medical leave, employers have reported positive or neutral effects from paid family leave to profitability, performance, turnover, employee morale, and productivity.
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