Vermont Commission on Women Awarded $173,794 Federal Grant to Help Develop State Paid Family Leave Program

Issued 9/29/2015

Grant Will Fund State Feasibility Study for Paid Family and Medical Leave

(MONTPELIER, Vt., September 29, 2015) – The Vermont Commission on Women will receive a $173,794 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau to study the feasibility of developing a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Such a program would ensure all Vermont workers have access to paid time off to care for themselves, a new child, or a seriously ill family member, the Department of Labor announced today.
These funds are to be used for planning purposes, including research and analysis, examining program design and eligibility guidelines. In addition to Vermont, the grants—totaling $1.55 million—were awarded to five other states: California, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Washington; and to two municipalities: New York City and Montgomery County in Maryland.  Read the US DOL Women’s Bureau press release for more information.

“I congratulate the Vermont Commission on Women on receiving this well-deserved grant,” Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT., remarked.  “As more states move forward on paid family and medical leave, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. This grant will help ensure that Vermont, led by the Commission’s efforts, will formulate a strategy that meets the needs of our working families and businesses alike.”

“When you look at what other wealthy countries are doing, what you find is that the United States of America is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers some form of paid family leave, paid sick time or paid vacation time,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders. “This federal grant to the Vermont Commission on Women is a good first step to help develop a statewide, paid family and medical leave policy that would allow working families to have paid time off to care for a newborn child or a sick family member.”

“Most Vermonters agree that if you’re sick you shouldn’t be faced with the decision to either go to work and put others at risk or miss work, sacrifice your paycheck, and potentially lose your job,” Governor Peter Shumlin stated.  “That’s why this study is vital in allowing us to better recognize needs of families, as well as costs and burdens to businesses so that we may move forward in a balanced and thoughtful way to bring this important benefit to working Vermonters. I am so proud of the good work being done by the Vermont Commission on Women and congratulate them on their successful application for a Paid Leave Analysis grant by the Department of Labor.”

Responding to the grant announcement, Cary Brown, Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said, “This money comes at an opportune time, as public conversation, political will and legislative momentum in support of paid leave have intensified in Vermont. People are recognizing the reality that in 2015, most families have both parents in the workforce, and supporting working families is not only the right thing to do, it supports business and the state economy.  We want to applaud the Department of Labor for prioritizing the needs of all workers, and for investing in Vermont. The Commission has been working for 51 years to expand opportunities for women in the workforce and we look forward to exploring solutions that suit the needs of both employers and workers.” 

"This is an exciting opportunity to explore how we can better support Vermont families.” remarked State Representative Jill Krowinski, Co-Chair of the Women's Caucus,  “I thank the Vermont Commission on Women for their leadership on this grant.  We know that access to paid family and medical leave can improve economic security for women.  On October 8th, the Commission and the Vermont Women's Legislative Caucus will be hosting a Women's Economic Security Summit at the State House and are thrilled to host Latifa Lyles, the Director of the Women’s Bureau at the U.S. Department of Labor, as our guest speaker."
The Vermont Commission on Women’s grant work will consist of analysis of potential administrative structures, including both public and private insurance models.  Grant work will also examine costs of a program: both employee-funded and combination employer/employee funded models; implementation costs; usage, cost and coverage for both male and female workers; and a cost-benefit analysis.  The study also will collect and analyze data regarding current practices of employers and employees; public opinion; the practical impact on employers; the need for access by both men and women; and the impact on children and families. 
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The Vermont Commission on Women (VCW) is a non-partisan state government commission established in 1964 working to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls. Sixteen volunteer commissioners and representatives from organizations concerned with women’s issues guide VCW’s public education, coalition building, and advocacy efforts. VCW offers many services to the public, including a toll-free information and referral service at 800-881-1561 and many publications, including the handbook The Legal Rights of Women in Vermont.  VCW has recently launched the VT Equal Pay Compact, a voluntary pledge that employers sign to indicate their commitment to closing the gender wage gap in Vermont, and a new statewide events calendar.