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Paid family leave could be coming to Maine

The Paid Family Leave Commission presented its findings to the Labor and Housing Committee on Tuesday.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine could soon join 13 other states and Washington, D.C. that already have paid family leave with a bill that is being worked on by the Legislature. 

On Tuesday, a committee that studied paid family leave for the last two years presented its findings to the labor committee. 

"We're actually in a really unique spot because most states don't really study it before they jump in," Senator Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, said.

Daughtry is leading the charge. She said the commission has dozens of options they plan to share with the labor and housing committee. The commission unanimously supports paying between 80-120 percent of the average Maine weekly salary for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave.

The current average pay in Maine per week is $1103.

Daughtry, a small business owner herself, said having paid family leave across the state is critical for businesses like hers.

"I've lost employees for not being able to offer those benefits that larger businesses can," she said in an interview.

"It's happening across the country, it's about time Maine fell in line with it," John Leavitt, who served on the commission, said.

He represented carpenters and said paid family leave could be huge for his industry, and could even help recruit new carpenters.

"For us, you're only paid when you're there, so for the construction field this is a huge benefit," he said.

If paid family leave is passed in Maine, all businesses in the state would be able to offer this to employees, even the smallest businesses. But employees will have to pay into the system.

Daughtry said someone could pay as little as one or two dollars a week and still get 12 weeks of paid time.

"There's nothing else that I can think of in the bottom line of my business that I can make that type of quality impact in my workforce with such a meaningful impact with such a low dollar amount," Daughtry said.

Now that the commission has presented its findings, the Legislature will work on a bill to establish paid family leave in Maine. 

Members of the commission and lawmakers are planning to travel across the state and talk with business owners about what they want to see in the paid family leave package.

If paid family leave is not passed by the legislature, there is a ballot initiative underway. Once signatures are submitted, the referendum could appear on the November 2024 ballot.

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