The recent advancement of New Mexico’s state-run paid family and medical leave bill through a committee has sparked a contentious debate, reflecting a divide along party lines. Despite its passage in the House Health and Human Services Committee, the bill, which has been repeatedly introduced since 2019, continues to encounter significant resistance. Critics argue that the bill is detrimental to small businesses, overly broad, and easy to exploit.
The proposed program, overseen by the Department of Workforce Solutions, requires a substantial initial investment of $36 million. It aims to be self-sustained through contributions from qualifying employers and employees. The initiative offers up to 12 weeks of paid leave under various circumstances, such as parental leave, serious medical conditions, or caring for relatives or close nonrelatives.
The 2024 iteration of the bill introduces several amendments, including extending benefits to relatives of military members and capping employee contributions, which would only further burden the businesses.
However, voices of opposition, many from small businesses and healthcare providers, express concerns about the bill’s potential financial burden. Patsy Romero, president and CEO of Santa Maria El Mirador, highlights the challenges faced by Medicaid-dependent organizations, underscoring the difficulty in absorbing additional costs.
Chandler acknowledged the need to review Medicaid reimbursement rates but insisted that this should not hinder the bill’s progress.
Employers also raise practical issues, such as difficulties in hiring temporary staff during employees’ leave periods. Amy Dixon, from the Desert States Physical Therapy Network, points out the recruitment challenges in specific sectors.
Critics also questioned the bill’s broad definition of eligible beneficiaries, fearing it could lead to misuse. In contrast, co-sponsor Rep. Linda Serrato defends the inclusive language, emphasizing its relevance to supposed “diverse” family structures and the requirement for medical verification.
As the bill moves to the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee, where it previously stalled.