Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) have put forward an innovative plan for paid parental leave. The CRADLE Act would allow parents to receive up to three months paid parental leave in a fiscally-responsible way. Instead of creating a new entitlement program, as many on the left have suggested, the CRADLE Act is an opt-in program that allows working parents to access Social Security benefits for up to three months and then subsequently postpone the activation of their Social Security benefits by two months for every one month of parental leave taken. This plan has no impact on the Social Security Trust Fund, is budget-neutral, and the benefit would be calculated using the existing Social Security disability formula. There are other safeguards to assure this program would not be used in conjunction with any employer-paid leave program and would only be used in conjunction with a birth or an adoption.
Paid parental leave proposals like the CRADLE Act give moms and dads the ability to stay at home with their newborns or adopted children during the crucial first few months. The CRADLE Act is one among similar, fiscally responsible, pro-family, conservative plans to address paid family leave. Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri), along with Sen. Rubio (R-Florida), proposed legislation last Congress to address paid family leave in a similar fashion and plan on introducing similar plans again this Congress.
Paid parental leave has many societal and familial benefits, including greater workforce attachment, better child and maternal health outcomes, and increased parental engagement. However, the costs of a government mandate are often far greater than the benefits. Government–mandated leave programs like the liberals’ FAMILY ACT put a strain on businesses, particularly small businesses, and make women of childbearing age less appealing to hire. Additionally, new entitlements irresponsibly pile on to our already crushing national debt. Many businesses know and understand the importance of these benefits to their workforce and offer their employees paid parental leave. For those parents who are not so fortunate, plans like this would bridge the gap without hurting seniors or enacting a new fiscally disastrous entitlement.
Conservative plans like the Wagner-Rubio and the Ernst-Lee proposals reach a good balance of incorporating fiscal concerns with the benefits of paid parental leave. New parents need new avenues of support, but our nation cannot afford a new government-mandated entitlement program.