Senate gives initial approval to statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave policy

Posted: June 21, 2023 | Senator Daughtry
Sen. Daughtry and Rep. Cloutier speak at a press conference to introduce their Paid Family and Medical Leave bill on Thursday, March 25.

AUGUSTA — On Wednesday, the Maine Senate voted in favor of LD 1964, “An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission to Develop a Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits Program,” sponsored by Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, and Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston. The bill passed with a vote of 22-12.

“I could not be more proud of the proposal we voted on today. Years of work, and countless hours of discussion, debate and consideration went into crafting this plan. While it’s true no one got everything they wanted, it’s a bill that best reflects the concerns of Maine businesses, workers and families. In short, it’s a true, honest compromise,” said Sen. Daughtry. “This is a plan that’s built by Mainers, for Mainers. And it’s time for Maine to finally have Paid Family and Medical Leave.”

“Today’s vote in the Senate was a significant step toward enacting a compromise bill that balances the needs of Maine businesses and our working families,” said Rep. Cloutier. “The time and energy invested into this effort by so many Mainers has resulted in a proposal that will implement a truly transformational program for our state. All of the work that has been put into this legislation hasn’t been easy, but it has been necessary – and I am looking forward to tomorrow’s vote in the House.” 

Only 15 percent of American workers have access to any sort of paid leave, and fewer than 60 percent of the workforce has access to unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. Nationally, one in four women takes fewer than 11 days of parental leave after giving birth despite a recommended six- to eight-week recovery period. Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia have instituted a statewide paid family and medical leave program, including every other state in New England.



As amended by committee, employees and employers would split a wage contribution, equal to 1% or less of the employee’s wage. Employers with 15 or fewer workers would not have to pay the contribution, but their employees would still be eligible. Employers who offer comparable or more comprehensive paid leave plans may opt out. Once an employee hits a certain contribution benchmark, they would be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year for qualifying life events. If the worker has been with their employer for at least 120 days, their job would be protected until they returned from leave. 

Employees would be able to take time off for:

  • The birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.
  • Supporting a sick or dying loved one.
  • Caring for an older family member.
  • Recovery from surgery, an accident, substance use disorder, or other health challenges.
  • Prepping for/transitioning back from a family member’s military deployment.
  • Managing immediate safety needs if you or a family member are a victim of domestic or sexual violence.

The worker’s wages would be replaced at a tiered rate, based on their average weekly income. Under the committee amendment, the benefit amount would be equal to 90% of a worker’s wages for income earned up to half of Maine’s average weekly wage, which is currently $1,036. That means the first $518 of a worker’s average weekly income would be replaced at 90%, which is $466.20. For income earned above that amount, the wage replacement would be 66% of earned pay. The total benefit cannot exceed the state average weekly wage.

The program is slated to cost approximately $12 million for start-up, and $14 million for the first year.

LD 1964, which has over 100 co-sponsors, is supported by Small Business Majority, Maine Council on Aging, Maine AFL-CIO, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, and AARP Maine. 

The bill faces further votes in the House and Senate.