Washington families could be first in line for benefits from the FIRST Act

The FIRST Act (Family Income to Respond to Significant Transitions) authorizes $1.5 billion in grant funding to states to seed new programs or to bolster existing paid leave programs. States without an existing program would receive a start-up grant to develop and implement a program for up to a three-year period, along with a grant to fund 50 percent of wage replacement for paid parental leave for a six month period.

However, states that develop programs providing leave for additional purposes—such as paid family leave to care for a seriously-ill family member, injured service member in their family or paid medical leave to recover from a worker’s own serious illness — will receive additional funding. States with existing paid leave programs can apply for grants, to fund outreach and education or to offer incentives to small businesses to also guarantee job protection to workers on leave.

Washington is the second state to pass family leave insurance, and would be first in line to receive funding from the FIRST Act if passed by Congress. California added paid family leave to its long-standing temporary disability insurance (TDI) program in 2004 and New Jersey will do the same in July 2009. Three other states – New York, Rhode Island, and Hawaii – have TDI programs that include paid leave following childbirth, but have not yet added paid family leave.

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