A bipartisan group of House and Senate members on Wednesday introduced legislation that would allow new parents to pull forward child tax credits to finance a leave from work or pay for child-related expenses.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and in the House by Reps. Colin Allred (D-Texas) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.). It comes amid a growing interest from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in creating a federal paid family leave program.
Cassidy, in a news conference Wednesday, touted the bill as a “paid family leave plus” policy “that we think benefits both the family, the child, the employer and society.”
Under the bill, parents would have the option to advance up to $5,000 of their child tax credits in the year of the birth or adoption of a child. In exchange, parents would receive a reduction in the amount of their child tax credits in each of the following 10 years.
Low-income parents who don’t qualify for the full refundable child tax credit can choose to receive a benefit that amounts to 100 percent of wages for 12 weeks.
New parents can use the benefit they’d receive under the bill to finance a leave from work, but they could also continue to work or utilize their company’s paid leave option and use the benefit to pay for childcare or other child-related costs.
“What’s really exciting about this proposal, in addition to the fact that it has support from both Republicans and Democrats and in the House and the Senate, is that it provides a complement to existing policies and existing proposals that allows families to have more choices and options during the first year of their child’s life,” Sinema said.
The introduction of the bill comes after Cassidy and Sinema released a proposal in July on advancing child tax credits to help new parents. Cassidy has been one of the leading Republicans on the issue of paid family leave, presiding over a hearing on the topic last year and holding meetings on the topic with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser.
The lawmakers who introduced the bill repeatedly highlighted the fact that it is bipartisan and bicameral. Other bills on paid family leave that have been introduced this year only have support from lawmakers in one party.
Ivanka Trump spoke favorably of the bill introduced Wednesday.
“The only pathway to making paid family leave a reality for hardworking American parents is through bipartisan, bicameral legislation,” she said in a statement. “The White House applauds Senator Cassidy, Senator Sinema, Congressman Allred and Congresswoman Stefanik for introducing legislation that will support parents in the critical first year following the birth or adoption of a child.”
However, the bill drew criticism from the left-leaning Center for American Progress (CAP).
“To be clear, this bill is not paid leave—it’s a loan from families’ own pockets without a guarantee of time off,” said Shilpa Phadke, vice president of the Women’s Initiative at CAP. “It forces families to make impossible choices such as caring for their new child or affording expenses of raising their child in the future. In so doing, the bill undermines the entire point of paid leave: helping workers care for themselves or their relatives without losing their job or economic security.”
Sinema said that advancing child tax credits would be optional and that parents are “not putting any money out of their pocket, just getting to utilize those dollars sooner during that first year of life.” Cassidy said that if a parent remains attached to the workplace, their salaries will rise far more than the amount of money they are pulling forward.
-updated at 6:54 p.m.