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Paid Leave Proposals Emerging In Illinois

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State Sen. Ram Villivalam says he plans to offer a proposal to create paid family leave in Illinois.

Villivalam, a Chicago Democrat, says the idea would be to allow workers to take leave with pay for themselves or to care for a new baby or other family member.

“There are people that are working, living paycheck to paycheck, without access to pay leave, and they're faced with the impossible choice: Do I care for my child or loved one in need? Or do I try to put food on the table?" he said. "Paid family leave eliminates this dilemma."

The issue is especially important because of COVID-19, Villivalam said.

He says the length of time could be between three and six months and would likely to be paid through some combination of worker, employer and state contributions. One possibility would be a pool created for employees to draw down on should they need to take leave.

Eight states and Washington D.C. have already passed paid medical/family laws. Some don’t take effect until after 2021.

Meanwhile, several advocacy groups are again readying support for proposals that would offer paid sick leave in Illinois.

Such legislation passed through the state Senate in 2019. The measure did not make to either chamber for a vote in the truncated session this spring.

Sarah Labadie is a policy analyst with Women Employed, which has argued for paid sick leave legislation. She calls COVID-19 “the big elephant in the room at the moment.’’

“It is critical that we have these programs for people to take advantage of to take care of a new baby themselves and family remembers when they're sick.’’

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce has opposed such proposals in the past because they would mandate that businesses provide sick leave rather than offering that as an option.

Thirteen states and Washington, D.C. have enacted paid sick leave laws. Maine’s law takes effect next year.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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