Dear New Jersey Legislator,
We the undersigned organizations join together with the New Jersey Time to Care Coalition to express our strong support for much needed improvements and expansions to the NJ Family Leave Insurance Program (NJFLI) so that all workers and their families are able to benefit from the program. Pending legislation, S2528 / A3975, includes many important and necessary changes to New Jersey’s FLI program and we urge you to fully support this bill.
We also ask that you support expanding the job protections for program participants. S2528 / A3975 extends job protections to an additional 200,000 New Jersey workers, but leaves an estimated 750,000 working people without protection. Job protection is an essential component of the program and we feel strongly all workers funding the program and eligible to use it, should have job protection if and when they need to use the program. Workers who are not extended job protections will be unable to use the program without fear of job loss, a risk most workers are not be able to take.
Despite its success and the many benefits of paid leave, NJ’s FLI program is not utilized by many workers who need it. According to the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLWD), a little over 4.6 million workers were eligible for NJ FLI in 2015, with less than 1 percent, or 32,033, filing claims. This is in part because fewer than 40% even know about the program, with young adults, low-income residents, and African American among the least likely to be aware of it. Other barriers such as the lack of job protection and low wage replacement rates also keep people from being able to take advantage of it.
Improving and expanding New Jersey Family Leave Insurance would make the program more accessible for working families, especially those struggling to balance work and family caregiving. All New Jersey workers contribute a small fraction of their earnings (the most a worker contributes in 2018 is $30.33) to the NJ FLI program and they should be able to access the benefit when they need it most. The NJ Legislature realized this and in 2017, they passed legislation (S-3085/A-4927) to expand and improve NJ FLI. Unfortunately, then Governor Christie conditionally vetoed the measure.
In early 2018, NJ State Senate President Sweeney introduced S-2528, which made additional improvements to the previous version of the bill. Key components of S-2528 are: • Increases the number of available weeks from 6 to 12 and allows for intermittent use of less than 7 days for bonding leaves. • Increases the wage replacement rate for both FLI and Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) when related to pregnancy and childbirth, from 66.7% of workers average weekly wage to 90%. • Raises the maximum benefit for the same above program usage, from 53% ($637 for 2018) of the statewide average weekly wage 2 years prior to 100% (approx. $1,200 for 2018). • Provides job protection for workers who qualify for coverage under the NJ Family Leave Act and work at companies with 30 or more employees (the current threshold is 50 employees). • Expands the definition of family for caregiving and provides benefits for survivors of domestic violence or sexual assault and for caring for family members who are dealing with issues of domestic or sexual assault. Additional family members covered for caregiving leave are adult children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, parents-in-laws, and individuals whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. • Gives employees the choice to use their own paid time off before accessing FLI. Under the current program, employers can require employees take up to two weeks of their paid time off which reduces the FLI benefit weeks by the same amount. • Includes additional protections so that employers may not retaliate against employees who request TDI or FLI benefits. Employers who fail to provide the DOLWD with necessary information to process a claim (as required under law), causing a delay in benefits, may be required by the DOLWD to pay an added amount equal to the amount of delayed benefits. • Increases public awareness by requiring additional funding for outreach and education ($1.2 million annually), improves program efficiency by requiring shorter processing times, and requires the DOLWD provide relevant additional reporting of program data. Additionally, in June 2018, companion legislation in the NJ State Assembly (A3975) sponsored by Assemblywoman Quijano, Assemblyman Giblin, and Assemblywoman Downey was amended in the Budget Committee hearing on June 18th to include the following provisions:• Limit to two weeks the amount of accrued sick leave certain public employees may be required to use before receiving TDI benefits, with the further limitation that they may not be required to use their last week of accrued sick leave before receiving TDI benefits;• Permit a worker with more than one employer to receive FLI benefits for leave taken from one employer while continuing other employment so long as the worker does not increase the amount of any other employment during the time of leave; and• Remove the one week waiting period before receiving FLI benefits;New Jersey workers and their families cannot wait a minute longer. It’s been nine long years and workers have been paying into the program without being able to access the benefits. It’s time to care for all New Jersey workers and their families by improving this pro-worker and family friendly program!
SIGNED: Advocates for Children of NJAFT Local 1766, Union of Rutgers AdministratorsACLU NJAnti-Poverty NetworkBlue Wave NJ Camden County Women's CenterCIR/SEIUCoalition Against Rape And Abuse, Inc.Council of New Jersey State College Locals, AFT, AFL-CIOCWA Local 1036Office of Social Services, Diocese of TrentonFamily Voices NJFirst United Methodist Church of New JerseyFood & Water WatchHarmony Education and Life PartnersInnovations in Early LearningJewish Family Service of MetroWest, NJ League of Women Voters of NJLutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New JerseyMoms RisingNew Jersey Citizen ActionNational Association of Social Workers – NJ ChapterNOW NJNOW - Northern NJ ChapterNOW - Middlesex & Somerset CountiesNOW - Ocean CountyNJ Association for Infant Mental HealthNJ Association on CorrectionNJ Tenants OrganizationNew Jersey Working Families AllianceNJ AFL-CIO NJ Coalition to End Domestic ViolenceNJ Council of ChurchesNJ Policy PerspectiveNJ State Industrial Union CouncilPassaic County Women’s Center Paterson Education Fund Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ Reform Jewish Voice of New JerseySAFE in HunterdonSPAN Parent Advocacy Network SPAN/Essex Family WRAPThe Arc of New JerseyThe Salvation ArmyUltravioletUNITE Here Local 54United for Respect (Our Walmart )UU FaithAction NJYWCA
The New Jersey Time to Care Coalition is a diverse group of over 100 organizations dedicated to ensuring working people are able to balance caregiving and work responsibilities with dignity and economic security. Our advocacy was instrumental in adoption of the NJ Family Leave Insurance Program in 2009, the NJ Earned Sick and Safe Days law, and the Diane Allen Equal Pay Act.