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Gov. Phil Murphy. Photo by Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe

Paid family leave expansion signed into law

By Nikita Biryukov, February 19 2019 12:24 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy signed an expansion of the state’s paid family leave program into law Tuesday.

“For you and countless others across our state over the past decade, the impact of paid family leave to care for a new baby or another family member or to have a family member care for you has been quite literally life-changing for the better,” Murphy said. “I’m so proud that in just a few moments, we’re going to be able to do so much more for so many more families.”

The measure will double the amount of paid family leave time guaranteed under law from six weeks to 12 weeks. It will also raise the maximum weekly payment for those receiving the benefits from 53% of 70% of the state’s average wage, or from $651 to $860.

The new version of the law will also make the benefits available to victims of sexual or domestic violence or their caregivers.

“Too often new jersey families had to make the decision between paycheck and caring for someone that they needed to care for or to be home with their child,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said. “I’m blessed to have three wonderful children, and the opportunity to be with them, to bond with them, to become such an important part of their life from the very outset, it’s critical to build a solid family.”

Coughlin and Senate President Steve Sweeney, who was one of the bill’s sponsor’s in the legislature’s upper chamber, had helped push the measure through the legislature despite opposition from the state’s business community, which feared the expanded benefits would lead to increased overtime pay and other costs associated with hiring replacement workers.

Businesses to not directly bear the cost of the expanded program.

Unlike Coughlin, Sweeney was not present at the bill’s signing. State Sen. Patrick Diegnan appeared in Sweeney’s stead. He said the senate president was absent because of “last-minute union obligations.”

“This is a state that cares, this is a state that listens, and that doesn’t happen by mistake,” Diegnan said. “It’s because of the leaders that we have, and we are just so fortunate.”

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