Cassidy, Ernst tout importance of paid parental leave during roundtable discussion

Paid parental leave is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic, said U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) during a June 18 bipartisan roundtable on the issue.

“Today’s roundtable serves as a positive step forward in the debate over how working families can access paid leave,” said Sen. Cassidy, co-chair of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s Paid Leave Working Group. “Congress must act on this important issue for the good of American families.”

Sen. Cassidy co-chairs the working group with U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), one of several other roundtable participants who included congressional members and outside experts, such as Adrienne Schweer, fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center; Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum; and Erika Moritsugu, vice president for economic justice at the National Partnership for Women & Families.

“Too many Americans face the tough choice of caring for their new child or returning to work for essential income,” said Sen. Cassidy during the roundtable discussion entitled Paid Leave Proposals in the COVID Era. “COVID-19 has compounded this problem.”

Sen. Ernst took the opportunity to tout the Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment (CRADLE) Act, which would allow both natural and adoptive parents to receive one, two or three months of paid leave benefits in exchange for postponing the activation of their retirement benefits for two, four or six months. The benefit would be calculated using the existing Social Security disability formula.

The proposal, which Sen. Ernst introduced in March 2019 with U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), would offer a paid parental leave solution without government mandates or increased taxes on individuals or businesses, and without adding to the national debt, she said during the roundtable.

“Once individuals who choose to take part in the program begin to delay their retirement for a short time period, the program would use funds provided on the front end to ‘repay’ the general revenue fund, ensuring taxpayers are not left on the hook,” Sen. Ernst said. “I think what sets our approach apart is that it gives parents greater flexibility without imposing a heavy-handed, new government mandate.”

Sen. Ernst also highlighted the need to address the childcare crisis in Iowa and across the country.

“We cannot have a conversation about paid parental leave without having a conversation about child care. Iowa has for years now had a growing child care crisis that has only worsened since the pandemic started,” said Sen. Ernst. “Our economy cannot truly reopen unless working moms and dads know that their children are able to be in a safe environment.”

She added that it is “long overdue that our nation modernize family leave policies and remove barriers preventing parents from balancing work and raising a family.”

Among other members of Congress who joined Sens. Ernst and Cassidy were U.S. Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Bob Casey (D-PA).