SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – Illinois lawmakers are considering a bill that would give workers in the state up to 26 weeks of paid leave. Any worker in the state who earns at least $1,600 in a year would be eligible for the program, according to the Illinois Time to Care Coalition.

“We’ve heard from [workers],” State Sen. Ram Villivalam (D-Chicago), one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “They need this legislation. They need this safety net. They need to be able to take paid family and medical leave when they have a family member that’s ill, or an expecting child coming into the world. That is just something that they’re asking for, and quite frankly, they deserve.”

Reasons people could use the paid leave includes anyone dealing with a serious health condition, people taking care of a sick family member, and to care for a new child.

The proposal, called the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act, which would be operated by the state, would give anyone who is pregnant an additional 26 weeks of leave.

“No one should have to win the employer lottery in order to receive the benefit of long term leave,” Christina Green, parent and advocate for the bill, said. “Parental Leave is important. Financial stability when planning a family is important.”

When Green was pregnant with her first child, she said she learned she would only receive two weeks of paid maternity leave at work.

“At the time, the private school I worked for had a tiered system for maternity leave,” Green said.

She said that people who worked at the school for seven years would eventually receive 12 weeks of paid maternity leave. As a result, Green said she had to make financial sacrifices.

“I used a week of paid vacation time, and I also had to withdraw money from a retirement account that I had,” Green said. “My husband also worked a second job to close any gaps in income that we would experience during this time.”

Tasha Brown, the Midwest director with the Small Business Majority, said this will help small businesses that might not have the resources to offer paid leave to their workers.

“That’s why it’s so important that state lawmakers enact policies and programs to support and empower these entrepreneurs, helping them provide paid leave as a benefit to their employees,” Brown said.

Under the program, workers can earn 90% percent of their average weekly wage if they make 50% or less of the state’s average weekly wage. And for those who make more than that 50%, they would earn 90% of their average weekly wage but up to the state’s average along with half of their average weekly wage. 

The U.S. Department of Labor says 11 states and the District of Columbia already have state laws requiring paid leave.