Workers in Maine will get paid family and medical leave starting in 2026

by Ethan Kim
Maine Paid Family Leave

Beginning in 2026, the majority of employees in Maine will be entitled to a maximum of 12 weeks of compensated leave for family and medical needs, a provision included in a supplementary budget signed by Governor Janet Mills of the Democratic Party.

The approved financial plan allocates $25 million to initiate the state-administered program that, come 2026, grants workers paid leave for health-related issues, family caregiving, or the occasion of welcoming a new child.

Maine now aligns with an ensemble of twelve other states that have implemented paid leave programs for family and medical reasons, spotlighting state legislative efforts following the inability to advance such measures at the federal level.

This initiative has garnered commendation from the White House, with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre recognizing Maine’s legislative step. She highlighted that such leave policies bolster the welfare of working families and fortify both the workforce and the economy. She acknowledged the Biden administration’s endeavors to position the federal government as a paragon in this respect, assisting federal employees in availing necessary leave.

Governor Mills shared her intimate connection with the necessity of such a program, citing her experiences with personal loss, single parenthood, and elderly care amidst her professional commitments.

The Democratic-majority Legislature had already sanctioned a budget exceeding $9.9 billion for essential services effective from July, a measure passed in March along party lines to avert potential partisan standoffs that could lead to a government shutdown.

The supplementary budget, amounting to approximately $445 million for additional expenditures, is projected to be activated towards the end of October due to its failure to secure an immediate-effect two-thirds legislative majority.

This additional budget outlines the initiation of the paid leave policy, to be financed via a payroll levy shared by employees and employers, with a 1% cap on wages. Eligible scenarios for the leave include childbirth or adoption, serious health conditions, familial caregiving, or military service reintegration.

Exemptions apply to small businesses with under 15 workers in terms of employer contributions. Businesses offering equivalent benefits may maintain their existing schemes.

The budget received support partly due to tax initiatives, such as the increase in the state income tax exemption for pension income, and included provisions to enhance childcare workers’ remuneration and to fund the governor’s suggested Dirigo Business Tax Incentive Plan, set to supersede the Pine Tree Development Zones.

Governor Mills, initially hesitant due to opposition from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce among others, consented to the paid leave measure after adjustments were made.

State Senator Mattie Daughtry of Brunswick expressed elation following the legislative victory, which included a commendatory interaction with the White House and her presence at the bill’s signing, which she co-sponsored with Representative Kristen Cloutier of Lewiston.

Combining the main and supplementary budgets, the state’s spending reaches unprecedented levels, approximately $10.3 billion, yet remains balanced with the state’s emergency fund at peak levels, according to Kirsten Figueroa, the commissioner of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Zeke Miller of Big Big News, based in Washington, D.C., contributed to this article.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Maine Paid Family Leave

When will Maine’s paid family and medical leave start?

The program is set to begin in 2026, providing eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of paid leave.

Who signed the law for Maine’s paid leave program?

Governor Janet Mills of Maine signed the supplemental budget into law, which included the paid leave program.

What does Maine’s paid leave program cover?

The program covers leave for personal or family member illness, birth or adoption of a child, and transitions from military deployment.

How will Maine’s paid leave program be funded?

The program will be funded through a payroll tax that is split between workers and employers, capped at 1% of wages.

Are all businesses required to contribute to Maine’s paid leave program?

No, businesses with fewer than 15 employees are not required to contribute to the program.

Has the federal government commented on Maine’s paid leave?

Yes, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre applauded Maine’s action, noting the broader positive impacts on working families and the economy.

Did the supplemental budget pass unanimously in Maine?

No, the supplemental budget did not secure a two-thirds majority in the Legislature for immediate effect and is expected to go into effect in late October.

More about Maine Paid Family Leave

  • Maine Paid Leave Legislation
  • Governor Janet Mills’ Office Announcement
  • White House Statement on Paid Leave
  • Overview of Paid Family and Medical Leave Policies
  • Maine State Chamber of Commerce Position on Paid Leave
  • Details on Maine’s Supplementary Budget

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Sandra K November 7, 2023 - 2:27 pm

white house seems to be patting backs here but aren’t we forgetting how long its gonna take before this kicks in…2026 is a long wait for families in need now

GaryS November 7, 2023 - 4:15 pm

looks like the budget’s balanced for now but these things have a way of getting messy real quick, just saying

Jake H November 7, 2023 - 5:09 pm

hey did anyone catch if small businesses have to pay into this? got a buddy runnin a diner and he’s sweating the details

Liz.Beth November 8, 2023 - 12:17 pm

So they finally got it through, wonder how that payroll tax is gonna affect us though anyone got the deets on the %?

Markus_Writes November 8, 2023 - 1:07 pm

didn’t mills hesitate on this at first whats changed her mind…politics, as usual, i suppose


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