ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Advocacy groups say a paid leave proposal in Maryland would provide peace of mind for workers, especially those with disabilities and their families.

The Time to Care Act is expected to be before the General Assembly when it returns in January. It would establish a statewide insurance program that would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

Myles Hicks, executive director of the group Maryland Rise, said it would help people deal with family health issues, care for themselves or a newborn, a family member, or a member of the military.

“No one should have to choose between caring for the family they love and going to work and getting a paycheck,” Hicks asserted.

Opponents argue most large private employers already provide paid time off and say the measure would be a burden on businesses. The act was introduced last session but never made it out of committee.

Rachel London, executive director of the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, said the pandemic has made clear that paid leave is vital to families facing health challenges.

“And for people with disabilities and their families access to paid leave means increased opportunities, more flexibility, and an increase in financial resources,” London outlined.

The program would require a 50-50 split between employers and workers, with an estimated weekly employee contribution between $3 and $6.

Hicks explained workers who care for a child or adult with disabilities or health issues are at greater risk of losing income, and people with disabilities are more likely to be employed in low-wage part-time jobs providing fewer benefits.

“For those who are living with disabilities, those disabilities can arise unexpectedly,” Hicks explained. “You never know when you might flare-up or have an unexpected issue, so it’s very important that paid family leave benefit is around so just in case you are experiencing an issue that was unexpected.”

The Build Back Better Act, recently passed by the U.S. House, guarantees four weeks of paid leave.

London acknowledged its future is uncertain.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” London stated. “So it is critical for states to take the lead on this issue and show that workers are important and recognize the needs of people with disabilities and their families across Maryland.”

She added most industrialized countries have a national paid leave policy, as do nine states and the District of Columbia.

Diane Bernard is a digital and radio journalist based in the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area with more than 10 years of journalism experience. Her print and online credits include work for The Washington...

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