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Paid Family Leave: Find Out If Your State Offers Benefits for Parents and Caregivers

More states offer provisions for workers to get paid time off for caregiving


Though the federal government does not require private employers to offer paid family leave — the Family and Medical Leave Act allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually — some states, including Maine and Minnesota in 2023, have enacted legislation to create mandatory family leave insurance programs to provide money for caregivers and new parents.

On Sept. 3, 2023, Oregon’s paid family leave law, which includes caregivers, new parents and victims of domestic violence, began. More than 10,000 people had applied as of Sept. 5, but only a little more than 15 percent had been approved, mostly because applicants had not furnished all of the documents required, program director Karen Madden Humelbaugh told the Portland Tribune.

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“We do not know for sure how many benefit applications we are going to receive, what type of individuals will apply in the coming months, whether they are high- or low-wage earners, and how long they are going to apply to take benefits,” she said. Paid Leave Oregon expects more than 68,000 people to apply by the end of 2023. 

Three years ago, about 48 million people in the United States provided unpaid care to older or disabled adults. On average, they devoted nearly 24 hours a week to caregiving.

When the next Caregiving in the U.S. study from AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving in about two years, the numbers may go up because of the increasing number of older Americans. From 2015 to 2021, the population of adults 65 and older increased by more than 17 percent, according to the Census Bureau. The amount of time caregivers spent on days they looked after their loved ones averaged nearly five hours in 2020 and 2021, a 68 percent increase from 2015-16, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) American Time Use Survey shows.

Such numbers have pushed state and federal lawmakers to take a new look at providing paid leave for caregiving and other family responsibilities. Less than a quarter of U.S. workers had access to employer-provided paid family leave in 2021, the BLS says.

Action in state legislatures

AARP has long advocated for a national policy on paid family and medical leave.

“Anyone can end up needing to care for someone,” Nancy LeaMond, chief advocacy and engagement officer for AARP, wrote in a September 2021 blog post. “We need to empower everyone to take care of their loved ones without losing pay.”

Keep in mind

  • Some states require employees to give advance notice, typically 30 days, before taking paid family leave although exceptions may be granted for unforeseeable circumstances. Check with your human resources department about notice policies.
  • Taxes often are not deducted from the amount you receive for paid family leave, and the income is taxable.

Three of every 5 caregivers balance work with their responsibilities, she said. And 65,700 people join the ranks of family caregivers every day.

Maine’s “new law will support family caregivers who work to better balance their job and family responsibilities, reducing their stress and allowing them to better care for their loved ones,” said Noël Bonam, AARP state director for Maine, where 166,000 unpaid family caregivers live. AARP’s “Valuing the Invaluable” report update, released this year, also tallied 530,000 family caregivers in Minnesota as of 2021.

President Joe Biden’s proposed Build Back Better Act included provisions to establish such a program nationwide, but it stalled in Congress. In his 2023 State of the Union address, Biden reinforced his commitment to the issue: “Let’s make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family and medical leave.”

He issued a presidential memorandum in February pledging to work with states to expand access to paid family leave for their workers.

16 states have enacted a program

As of September 2023, only eight states and the District of Columbia had government-mandated family leave insurance programs in effect. Five other states have enacted similar measures that will take effect in 2024, 2025 and 2026. 

An additional three states have established voluntary family leave programs in which employers can choose whether they want to participate.

Payroll taxes cover the cost of this insurance with contributions drawn from employees, employers or both. All state programs enacted to date provide paid time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child.

Some programs cover paid leave for workers coping with their own illness; certain situations arising from a family member’s military deployment; or domestic violence, harassment or sexual assault.

The amount of time off, and which family members you can take leave to care for, varies from state to state. Where a program covers care for parents, grandparents, children and siblings, it generally includes step, in-law, adoptive and legal relationships. Some states exempt very small companies, certain types of employers such as tribal entities or religious organizations, or those with their own state-approved family leave programs. Click the links for details on each state’s policies.

California

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,620 a week

How it works: California was the first state to enact paid family leave, launching its program in 2004. Employees can receive 60 percent to 70 percent of their weekly earnings, up to the maximum benefit for up to eight weeks within any 12-month period, to care for an ill spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling.

Colorado

Effective date: Benefits begin Jan. 1, 2024. Employer and employee contributions to finance the program began Jan. 1, 2023.​

Maximum benefit: $1,100 a week in 2024; 90 percent of the state’s average weekly wage thereafter.

How it works: Approved by voters in a 2020 ballot measure, Colorado’s program gives employees up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period to care for a seriously ill family member, defined as a spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling or other individual with whom the worker “has a significant personal bond that is or is like a family relationship.” 

The benefit calculation is 90 percent of a worker’s pay up to half the state average weekly wage, and 50 percent of any earnings beyond that.

Connecticut

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $900 a week. 

How it works: Most workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or other person “whose close association with the employee shows to be the equivalent of those family relationships.”

Employees who make up to 40 times the state minimum wage of $14 an hour — up to $560 a week — will receive up to 95 percent of their pay during family leave. A different calculation is used for those who earn more than that with benefits capped at 60 times the minimum wage, or $840 a week.

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Delaware

Effective date: Benefits begin Jan. 1, 2026. Employers and employees begin paying into the system Jan. 1, 2025.

Maximum benefit: $900 a week in 2026 and 2027, increasing annually after that based on inflation.

How it works: Workers will be able to get up to six weeks of paid leave over any 24-month period to care for a spouse, parent or child with a serious health condition. The benefit amount will be 80 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage, up to the maximum.

District of Columbia

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,049 a week

How it works: Employees receive up to 12 weeks’ pay within a 52-week period to care for a family member with a serious health condition, including a spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child or sibling.

Maine

Effective date: May 1, 2026

Maximum benefit: 100 percent of state average weekly wage, $1,103.71 as of July 1, 2023.

How it works: Both public- and private-sector employers and employees will contribute 0.5 percent each of a worker's weekly wages to a fund starting Jan. 1, 2025. Employees who have earned enough — a calculation of six times the average weekly wage — in the previous year before the May 1, 2026, start date will be eligible for a portion of their weekly wage for up to 12 weeks within a 52-week period.

Maryland

Effective date: Benefits begin Jan. 1, 2026. Employer and employee contributions to finance the program begin Oct. 1, 2024.

Maximum benefit: $1,000 a week in 2026, with annual increases indexed to inflation after​ that.

How it works: Maryland lawmakers passed the Time to Care Act late in their 2022 legislative session and overrode Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto, modifying the act slightly in 2023. Workers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave within a 12-month period to care for an immediate family member — spouse, parent or child — with a serious health condition. Benefit amounts are based on the worker’s average weekly pay and can range in the first year of the program from $50 to $1,000 a week.​

Massachusetts

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,129.82 a week

How it works: Employees can get paid leave for up to 12 weeks within a 52-week period to care for a spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling with a serious health condition. Benefit payments are 80 percent of weekly earnings up to half of the state’s weekly average wage, $1,765.34 in 2023, and 50 percent of any earnings above that. 

Minnesota

Effective date: Jan. 1, 2026

Maximum benefit: 100 percent of state average weekly wage, which is $1,337 for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2023

How it works: Employers and employees each will contribute 0.35 percent of income to a fund that the state also will give money to. Workers who have earned enough — at least 5.3 percent of the average annual wage — in the previous year before the Jan. 1, 2026, start date will be eligible for a portion of their weekly wage for up to 12 weeks within a 52-week period.

New Jersey

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,025 a week

How it works: Workers can receive 85 percent of their average weekly earnings, up to the maximum, for up to 12 consecutive weeks or 56 days of intermittent caregiving in a 12-month period. The time can be taken to care for a spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, child, grandchild, “chosen family” or “any other individual related by blood or that you consider to be family.”

New York

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,131.08

How it works: Employees can receive 67 percent of their average weekly earnings, up to the maximum, for up to 12 weeks every 52 weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The program covers care for spouses, domestic partners, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, children, grandchildren and siblings.

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Oregon

Effective date: In effect.

Maximum benefit: $1,523 a week.

How it works: Workers who have been with a company for at least 180 days can take up to 12 weeks every 52 weeks to care for a family member — defined as any person related by blood or “who is connected to you and has a family relationship” — with a serious health condition. Companies with fewer than 25 employees are not required to provide paid family leave, but they may be eligible for state grants if they opt to apply for them.

Rhode Island

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,007 a week

How it works: Employees receive about 60 percent of weekly earnings for up to six weeks during a 52-week period to care for a spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent or child with a serious health condition. The minimum weekly benefit is $114.

Washington

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,427 a week

How it works: Workers can receive up to 90 percent of their weekly pay, up to the maximum, for up to 12 weeks a year to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, parent, in-law, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling or “someone who has an expectation to rely on you for care.”

Voluntary states

Some states embracing paid family leave have done so using a different model than the earlier ones.

Rather than requiring businesses of a certain size to offer paid family leave to employees, they allow businesses to opt into a program. If a worker’s employer does not offer paid family leave, the employee may have the option to buy an individual plan.

New Hampshire

Effective date: In effect

Maximum benefit: $1,848.46 a week, 60 percent of the Social Security taxable wage maximum, which is adjusted annually.

How it works: New Hampshire became the first state to offer voluntary paid family leave when it launched its program Jan. 1, 2023.  Employees receive 60 percent of weekly earnings for up to six weeks a year to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child or grandchild.

The program caps benefits at 60 percent of the Social Security taxable wage maximum. The taxable wage maximum is $3,080.77 a week in 2023. So benefits are limited to $1,848.46 a week, $11,090.76 for the total six weeks.

Though employers don’t have to offer the program, they will receive a tax credit if they do. If an employer does not offer coverage, a New Hampshire resident may be able to purchase an individual plan.

Vermont

Effective date: July 1, 2024, for private employers; July 1, 2025, for individuals who don’t receive coverage through an employer.

Maximum benefit: 60 percent of the Social Security taxable wage maximum, which is adjusted annually. 

How it works: Vermont residents will receive up to 60 percent of their average weekly earnings for six weeks each year to care for a seriously ill family member including a spouse, domestic partner, parent or child. When calculating benefits, wages are capped at the Social Security taxable wage maximum — $3,080.77 a week for 2023. So using 2023 numbers, benefits will be limited to $1,848.46 a week, $11,090.77 for the total six weeks.

Virginia

Effective date: Jan. 1, 2025. Employers and employees begin paying premiums in 2024.

Maximum benefit: Benefits can’t exceed 80 percent of the state of Virginia’s average weekly wage, which is adjusted annually.

How it works: Virginia residents can receive up to 80 percent of their average weekly wages for 12 weeks in a year to care for a spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling who is seriously ill. Benefits can’t exceed 80 percent of the state of Virginia’s weekly wage, which is $1,343 in 2023; 80 percent is $1,074.40.

This story, originally published Sept. 25, 2019, has been updated to reflect new information on state laws.

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