SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 123 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), which would have increased the amount of income California workers would receive while using the state’s Paid Family Leave program to bond with a newborn, or care for a sick loved one.
“It’s a shame that workers who pay into our state’s Paid Family Leave program can’t reap the benefits because the program doesn’t provide enough income to live on,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “Until we make reforms to the program, low- and middle-income families will continue to be left behind, while their tax dollars subsidize paid family leave for higher-income workers.”
California’s Paid Family Leave program has become increasingly unattainable for average, working Californians who bear the brunt of funding the program through their paycheck contributions. Currently, a full-time minimum wage worker making a gross annual income of roughly $29,120 would only qualify to receive 60 percent of their income, in other words, a weekly benefit of approximately $337 per week – barely enough to cover the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in California, or even basic household expenses.
In December 2019, Governor Newsom convened a Paid Family Leave Task Force, which recommended increasing the program’s wage replacement rates to 90 percent. The Task Force recognized, “one of the leading causes for Californians to forego taking paid family leave is because current benefit levels replace too little of a worker’s wages.” The Master Plan for Early Learning and Care, commissioned by Governor Newsom, was also released one year later, and similarly recommends increasing wage replacement rates in the Paid Family Leave program to at least 90 percent for those earning less than 70 percent of the state average weekly wage to expand equitable access to paid family leave benefits. AB 123 would have implemented this recommendation outlined in the Governor’s Master Plan by January 1, 2025.
While California was a pioneer decades ago when establishing the nation’s first robust Paid Family Leave program, the Golden State has yet to catch up with others like Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Connecticut who provide higher wage replacement to their working families. For the 18.7 million working Californians covered under the Paid Family Leave program, AB 123 would have been the most significant expansion of paid family leave benefits since the program’s inception.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez represents California’s 80th Assembly District, located in southern San Diego County, including the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, and National City. She serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Appropriations and Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Latina Inequities. For more information on Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, visit http://asm.ca.gov/gonzalez