Roughly 650,000 people a year take some type of parental leave each year under the FMLA law of 1993. And for most of these new parents, it is an unpaid leave. A huge brouhaha has erupted over a plan by President Clinton, which would authorize the states to use their unemployment funds to pay these workers during the parental leave.
The President says that this change would enable millions of people to enjoy time with their newborns (according to the Labor Department 1.9 million women have children under 1 year old at home). Many do not currently take leave now because they cannot afford it, and many who do are forced to go on public assistance because of financial hardship.
Critics of the plan are upset because the plan is such a radical departure from the idea behind unemployment insurance: benefits paid to people who are unable to work and who are seeking full-time employment. They say that such a change would be an unacceptably large use of executive authority by the President. And of course, such use of the state's unemployment funds would trigger large tax increases.
Details of the Administration plan are expected soon.