Vermont to Begin Offering Voluntary Paid Leave Program

In the past, lawmakers have favored a mandatory program. The governor’s program would be voluntary for the state’s employers

The state of Vermont is going to begin offering paid family and medical leave to its 8,000 employees next summer as part of a voluntary program that in following years will be expanded to private businesses and individuals, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday.

Scott, a Republican who outlined the program at a Statehouse news conference in Montpelier, said it may provide at least 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage for a combined six weeks of paid leave in a 12-month period. The benefit can be used for a number of life events, including the the birth of a child or caring for a sick family member.

Sue O'Connell sat down with Dawn Huckelbridge, director of Paid Leave for All, to talk about her cross-country bus tour and how federal paid family leave laws would benefit both employees and the economy.

Over the years Scott and the Democratic-led Legislature have promoted different versions of paid family leave programs, but they have differed on how to accomplish the goal.

“Paid family and medical leave is an area of agreement I’ve had with Legislature,” Scott said. “However, our differences in the past have been more about how to pay for it.”

In the past, lawmakers have favored a mandatory program. The governor’s program would be voluntary for the state’s employers.

House speaker Jill Krowinski, a Democrat, said the pandemic highlighted the need for such programs as families struggled to balance careers and caring for loved ones.

“I look forward to reviewing the details of the governor’s program, but at first glance, it does not meet the needs of Vermonters,” she said in a statement.

Almost four years ago Scott and his New Hampshire counterpart Chris Sununu announced a plan to have the two states work together on a voluntary program. However, the two-state program never went forward.

Now New Hampshire plans to launch a voluntary paid family and medical leave program early next year that will cover about 10,000 state workers and private businesses and individuals who opt in. The program will cover up to 60% of wages for up to six weeks. Participating businesses will get tax credits to offset half the cost.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, working parents qualify for up to 12 weeks of paid leave during their child's remote or hybrid learning.

The program was created as part of last year’s state budget after Republican Gov. Sununu vetoed Democratic plans in 2019 and 2020 that would have required employers to provide paid leave.

Initially, the Vermont program will be for the state’s estimated 8,000 employees. It will be administered by The Hartford insurance company. The state administration plans to ask the Legislature to approve $2 million for the program in next year’s budget.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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