WASHINGTON — More than a half-million workers in the nation’s capital will get up to eight weeks of paid family leave under a law that Mayor Muriel Bowser has allowed to take effect without her signature.
Bowser joined many leaders in the business community in opposing the bill, calling it a burden on businesses because it imposes a new tax. She also spoke out against the fact that benefits would be available to people who work in the District but live elsewhere.
“It is wrong to raise District taxes to fund a costly, new government program that sends 66 percent of the benefits outside of the city, and leaves District families behind,” she said in a statement in December, when the D.C. Council gave its final approval.
On Wednesday, Bowser wrote a letter to the council saying she would not veto the bill and hopes to work with lawmakers to address its shortcomings.
The bill provides up to eight weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. It also allows for up to six weeks of paid time off to care for a family member who is ill, and two weeks of personal paid sick time.
The new benefits would not apply to federal workers or city employees.
Council members passed the measure with a veto-proof majority of 9 to 4.
“This legislation is thoughtful, heavily debated and, as I will keep saying, it is simply the right thing to do,” said Council member David Grosso before the vote.
To pay for the new benefits, a .62 percent tax will be imposed on all D.C. businesses, and some council members expressed concern that it might be too much for small businesses to bear.
“The question is, do you support a tax on businesses to do it? What’s not lost on me is what that cost might be to those businesses,” said Council member Kenyan McDuffie.
Taxing businesses is expected to generate $250 million annually.
The new law still has to survive a review by Congress, which has the final say over local laws in the District.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.