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Washington, D.C. city council approves generous, 8-week paid leave program

WASHINGTON — Kristin Garrity Sekerci was working at a small D.C. nonprofit two years ago when she became pregnant with son Harun.

“As the due date approached I realized I wouldn’t be eligible for any kind of leave,” she said.

Sekerci is a strong supporter of the District of Columbia’s bill to provide eight weeks of paid leave for parents of a newborn or adopted child. The measure, passed by the city council on Tuesday, would be one of the most generous plans in the nation.

She said the most important thing in the bill is “recognizing my value as a mother.”

Employees would receive as much 90 percent of their pay, up to $1,000 a week. Most of the benefit is aimed at low-wage workers.

It would be paid for by a payroll tax increase on D.C. businesses.

“This is just traditional liberal politics where you create programs and you stick the middle class with the bill,” said Vincent Orange, the head of the D.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“The business community can provide that same benefit without raising taxes, and in fact there are a number of businesses that offer better leave packages,” Orange said.

Only three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — have paid leave laws. Another will take effect in New York in 2018.

President-elect Donald Trump, on the advice of his daughter Ivanka, has proposed a federal six-week paid leave law. He wants to pay for it by cutting unidentified “waste,” instead of increasing taxes on businesses.

Mayor Muriel Bowser has threatened a veto, not because she opposes paid leave, but because about two-thirds of the benefits would go to commuters who live in Maryland and Virginia.