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Paid leave bill heads to Carney for signature

Charlie Megginson Government, Headlines

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Photo/Kristina Paukshtite, Pexels

The bill to create a paid family and medical leave program in Delaware passed in the House of Representatives Thursday by a margin of 29 to 11.

Three Republicans, Reps. Mike Smith, R-Pike Creek, Kevin Hensley, R-Odessa, and Mike Ramone, R-Hockessin, voted in favor of the legislation. 

Because the House voted to add an amendment, the bill was sent back to the Senate for a final vote, which it quickly received.

It will now go before Gov. John Carney, who is expected to sign it into law. 

“This is a historic day for Delaware and a watershed moment for working families throughout the First State,” said Sen. Sarah McBride, the bill’s sponsor. “Thousands of families throughout our state are now one signature away from having the security and peace of mind that comes from knowing they will be able to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads even as they face some of the most common challenges that we all face as human beings.”

The Healthy Delaware Families Act will create a statewide insurance program to provide up to 80% of wages for eligible Delaware workers for up to 12 weeks per year for parental leave and six weeks over two years for caregiving and medical leave.

If signed into law, employer and employee contributions to the program will begin in 2025. The benefits will be available beginning in 2026. 

The program will be funded through a 0.8% payroll contribution split between the employer and the employee. For example, an employee who makes $1,000 per week would pay $4 per week and so would their employer.

“This major step forward would not have been possible without the hard work and persistence of advocates, business leaders willing to come to the table, statewide leaders and a bi-partisan coalition of legislators, and the overwhelming support of Delawareans,” said McBride, D-Wilmington.

The House Amendment, introduced by House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, exempts businesses that are closed for 30 consecutive days or more per year. That will benefit the many seasonal businesses that operate in Schwartzkopf’s oceanside district.

The amendment also requires that before July 1, 2029, the Department of Labor submit a report to the General Assembly and the governor detailing the program’s usage and efficiency, as well as recommendations for improvement.

Businesses with fewer than 25 workers will not be required to participate in the medical and family caregiving component of the program, and businesses with fewer than 10 workers will not be required to participate in parental leave, though they may opt-in. 

Businesses with comparable benefits will be able to opt-out of the program in whole or in part.

“Delaware set the example by becoming one of the first states to establish paid parental leave for state employees and teachers,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, the bill’s lead House sponsor. “Now, Delaware has done the right thing for thousands of private workers and ensured they have access to paid family and medical leave.”


House roll call on Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 1:

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Senate roll call on Senate Substitute 2 for Senate Bill 1:

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