By The Honorable Cheryl Brown, Commissioner on the California Commission on Aging and Former Assemblywoman, 47th District
The holiday season is in full swing. And during this time of the year, families fly and drive to gather around the dinner table. We reflect on, laugh about and grieve over memories of years and those who have passed. Not only is it an important time to catch up with relatives, but also to make sure they’re well and taken care of.
It’s also during the holidays when it’s often most clear that Grandma’s health is faltering and that she needs someone to help her transition into a care facility. Or we realize that Dad doesn’t have anybody to take care of him when he gets his hip replaced next month, meaning no one to help him shop for groceries or get him to his rehabilitation appointments.
The good news is that, if you do have to take a few weeks off from work to get Grandma settled in a care facility or get Dad nursed back to full health, you might get some of your pay while on leave.
Through California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program, eligible workers can get up to six weeks of paid benefits to care for a seriously ill or injured family member (including spouses, registered domestic partners, siblings, children, grandchildren, parents, parents-in-laws and grandparents). This time off from work can be taken all at once or taken as needed over the course of a year, meaning you can be there for your family members over an extended period of time or intermittently, depending on the kind of care and support they need.
Starting in January, paid benefits are increasing to up to 70 percent of weekly income for some Californians. California was the first state in the nation to acknowledge the importance of being there for family during these important life moments by enacting a PFL program. Now, our state will also lead the nation with the highest wage replacement rate, further reducing the financial strain that these tough times can have on families.
Importantly, these are benefits that workers have already paid for – PFL is NOT a government assistance program. Thanks to paycheck deductions for the State Disability Insurance program (noted as “CASDI” on paystubs), you have been putting away money for these life moments without noticing it. So, if you take time off without applying for PFL, you’re potentially walking away from money that you’ve already saved for exactly this kind of situation.
In total, some 18.1 million Californians are covered by PFL benefits – and you may be one of them. So, when you sit down for a holiday meal with those you’re closest to, be thankful not only for the memories you’ve shared with them and for the positive impact they have had in your life over the years, but also for the impact that you can have on their lives when they need you the most.
During these life moments that matter most, it’s all the more important for families to care for each other, to have each other’s backs, to spend time together – even if it requires hitting pause on our work responsibilities for a short time.
Of course, there are neighbors who will drop by a meal or two. Pastors who will call and pray. Friends who will help with a ride every now and again. These are all things for which we are grateful, not only during the holidays, but all year-round.
To learn more about PFL visit www.californiapaidfamilyleave.com.