Our Turn: Let’s move forward on family and medical leave insurance

For the Monitor
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

In order to move New Hampshire forward, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. That means finally moving forward on family and medical leave insurance. One of us is an entrepreneur, small-business owner and mother. One of us is a former legal aid lawyer, now serving in the state Senate, and a new dad. We are both young(ish) professionals, we both value hard work and family, and we both strongly support family and medical leave insurance.

On this, we are not alone. It turns out family and medical leave insurance is supported by 82 percent of Granite Staters, with overwhelming support from the millennial generation, workers on second and third careers, Granite State seniors and retirees and almost everyone in between. That’s because whether you are a worker struggling with opioid addiction, a worker with a newborn child, or a worker with a sick spouse or aging parent who needs caregiving, you shouldn’t have to risk your family’s economic livelihood to take a bit of time away from work.

Today, a subcommittee of House Labor has an opportunity to move House Bill 628 forward, a bipartisan bill establishing family and medical leave insurance, helping to attract and retain the workforce of tomorrow.

Small businesses, in particular, know the importance of attracting and retaining skilled, high-quality workers. It’s essential to their success. Many small businesses cannot set up their own paid family and medical leave insurance pool. Being able to offer insurance to help a worker care for themselves and/or their families in times of personal crisis means greater worker retention and productivity.

Times of crisis befall everyone in our community, and there are some who must make devastating decisions based on the lack of access to this type of insurance. House Bill 628 would greatly benefit small- to medium-sized businesses by allowing them to be more competitive in the job market. And, because many employees will not have to quit their job to manage their personal crisis, they will return to work and continue to pay taxes.

For administrative ease, House Bill 628 piggybacks off of our existing unemployment insurance program to allow for an affordable and efficient family and medical leave insurance.

In New Hampshire, this family and medical leave insurance model has been studied in extensive detail for decades; it enjoys broad support from the public, and it can now finally be supported by elected leaders.

House Bill 628 is bipartisan legislation that deserves to be moved forward. It would mean moving forward on legislation overwhelmingly supported by the public. It would mean moving forward on our efforts to attract and retain young workers, care for an aging population and combat the opioid public health epidemic. And, it would mean moving forward on expanding economic opportunity for everyone, not just those at the top.

(Aryn Marsh lives in Concord is the owner of Live Juice on Main Street in Concord. Dan Feltes lives in the South End of Concord, is a co-sponsor of HB 628, and represents Concord, Henniker, Hopkinton, Penacook and Warner in the state Senate.)