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Legal Review: Republican Plans for Paid Family Leave Look to Tap Social Security

Paid family leave has become a hot-button topic for politicians of all stripes. However, at its core, paid family leave is a concept that affects the tens of millions of Americans who each year have to take unpaid time off from work to care for sick children, sick parents, sick spouses; not to mention to give birth.

Because of this massive impact, Republicans and Democrats have advanced plans designed to provide some form of paid family leave for all Americans.

“With any plan like this, one of the biggest questions is determining exactly how to fund it,” said Sara Khaki, an Atlanta Social Security Disability Attorney with The Khaki Law Firm, LLC. “The Republican plan, which due to the current makeup of Congress and the White House has the most likelihood of success, seeks to use future Social Security retirement benefits to make those payments.”

The proposal would allow new parents 12 weeks of paid leave. It would not allow individuals who are sick or have sick family members to participate. Those 12 weeks would be paid for using the individual’s Social Security retirement fund — in essence, borrowing from one’s future retirement benefits to provide income now.

Critics of this proposal see it as forcing individuals to decide when that money will be more important: now or in the future. Choosing the “now” means that the individual is reducing the amount that may be available to them in the future, although the plans proponents assert that it would only result in a minimum deferral of the start date of Social Security Retirement benefits.

Critics also argue that this proposal simply takes more money from an already underfunded and depleted Social Security program, while proponents point out that an individual will not actually receive more than they otherwise would under their Social Security benefits.

While the program tries to find a revenue-neutral approach to an obvious need, it assumes that the income replacement rate of 45 percent will be sufficient because there are two parents living together, not just one parent, and that both parents do not have health issues of their own.

With the average monthly payment per person under this plan being $1,145, it is unlikely to provide the amount of monetary support necessary to cover an average family’s expenses, let alone a family with a disabled parent or child whose expenses are naturally higher.

Ultimately, the breadth of any paid family leave program will come down to cost and politics. If the public supports the idea, and politicians are elected because they support the idea, the plan is likely to be broader in scope than were the reverse to be the case.

If paid family leave is instituted, it will be incredibly important to sit down with an Attorney familiar with Social Security Retirement Benefits and Social Security Disability benefits to ensure that you make an informed decision about your options.

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