Politics & Policy

New Parents Need Paid Family Leave, and Here’s a Bill to Provide It

It’s critical for America’s future health and long-term prosperity.

The most important role that God has gifted me in life is that of being a father. Nothing can prepare you for the sheer rush of love and joy that comes with the privilege of being a parent.

There is also nothing that prepares new parents for the sudden and extreme change in schedules and finances that comes with starting a family. And for far too many new parents across our nation, the sad reality is that they are forced to take on new debt or fall onto welfare programs just to pay for their basic living costs after having a child. New mothers feel pressured to return to work too soon after giving birth, and new fathers are often unable to take time off to spend those critical first few weeks with their child.

You cannot have a strong country without strong communities, and it’s impossible to have strong communities without strong families. Our current economic policies have left young, working families behind, even as our marriage and childbirth rates are falling. To address the problems facing families in the 21st century, we must realign our economic policies in support of American families.

That is why I, along with Senator Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Representatives Ann Wagner (R., Mo.) and Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas), introduced the New Parents Act, which would provide a voluntary option for paid family leave. The bill would ensure an economic safety net that new parents could take advantage of, by allowing them to pull forward from their future Social Security benefits. No new taxes. No new mandates. No new regulations. Completely optional.

But what really sets my bill apart is that it gives new parents much-needed flexibility in how they choose to use their paid leave. It would be available to working and stay-at-home moms and dads alike, allowing them to create a paid-leave plan that works best for their household. Most important, at a time when just over one in ten workers receives paid family leave from their employers, my bill gives millions of new parents the ability to take paid leave that they otherwise would never have.

Nothing is more critical for the future health and long-term prosperity of our nation than investing in families. Families are the pillars of our communities and our nation. Often, fathers are left out of the conversation when we talk about the modern American family. Traditionally, mothers are viewed as the primary caregiver. For some families, it’s still that way today.

Recently, fathers have begun to be included in discussions about paid family leave. As a father of four, I know the importance of having flexibility in those first few months. I would take on the late-night feedings when our children were newborns. When I had to take the long trip to Tallahassee while serving in the Florida legislature, Jeanette would stay at home with our kids. We were also blessed to be surrounded by family, who readily stepped in when we needed them.

Today, many middle-class families in America do not have the luxury of one parent’s being able to stay at home. The flexibility my bill offers ensures that parents can continue working full-time or part-time, using the extra funds to pay for child-care expenses. No one should be economically penalized for choosing to start a family. No parents should have to go into debt to give their child proper care in those critical first few months.

As millions around the country celebrate Father’s Day, I urge my colleagues, who know that being a parent is the greatest job we will ever have, to support my New Parents Act and join my effort to pass a national paid-family-leave program.

Marco Rubio, the senior U.S. senator from Florida, is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

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