Small Business Commission Still Finds Flaws with Paid Parental Leave

The debate over impacts of paid parental leave and related changes to California State parental leave requirements were on the table at the April 25 meeting of the Small Business Commission.

Menaka Mahajan, the commission’s secretary, presented changes to the State of California’s paid parental leave benefits program. Currently, employees receive 55 percent of their wages while on parental leave from an employee-funded insurance pool. State Assembly Bill 908 will raise that percentage to 60 to 70 percent of wages based on the employee’s income level.

Commissioners, listening to how the changes would mesh with the City’s parental leave program, took the opportunity to pick apart the San Francisco’s newly-instated program, which was passed into law last month and will require San Francisco employers to bridge the gap between the State benefit and the employee’s regular pay to reach 100 percent wage replacement for employees out on parental leave.

San Francisco’s program requires employers to keep employees on their payroll during the leave period, unlike the insurance payments of the State program.

“If these are wages and not insurance benefits, they come with all sorts of other additional expenses,” Commissioner Paul Tour-Sarkissian said. Whereas employees collecting benefits from an insurance pool do not have to pay income taxes on those benefits, employers paying wages would be liable for costs such as Workers Compensation and State Disability Insurance.

Commission President Mark Dwight also took exception to the requirement of the City’s program that businesses with 20 or less employees are exempted from providing full parental leave to their employees.

“It seems completely counter to the progressive nature of this legislation to exclude those employees from the benefit,” Dwight said.

Mission Street Transit Changes

Erick Arguello, president of Calle 24, a merchants association in the Mission district, said that small businesses are “feeling a lot of trauma,” due to the threats of eviction or lease expiration, building fires and now transit changes on Mission Street.

As part of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Muni Forward program, the left lanes of four-lane Mission Street between 14th and 30th streets have become bus-only “red carpet” lanes, with forced right turns in the right lanes for private automobile traffic.

Neighborhood business leaders insisted that businesses were hurt by the decrease in auto traffic that the forced right turns had necessitated.

Roberto Hernandez, another Mission District advocate, spoke about how displaced residents returning to the neighborhood by car to avail of its unique services are turned away by the new changes to Mission Street.

“It’s like a maze,” Hernandez said. “You can’t drive straight down Mission Street like you used to.”

Eden Stein, owner of Secession Art and Design gallery and a member of Mission Bernal Merchants Association, spoke about the impacts of traffic change on her business.

“As far as being a merchant on Mission Street, many of my customers have said that they’ve tried to find parking, they’ve got to the end of Cesar Chavez, they took the right turn, and then they went somewhere else because they couldn’t come to our neighborhood.”

“We do want an expedited Muni service,” Commissioner William Ortiz Cartegena said, but he was careful to make the distinction that Mission Street is a “regional merchant corridor” that many customers access by car from outside San Francisco, and therefore is more adversely affected by auto traffic mitigation.

Meeting Recap

  • Department of Technology staff updated the commission on their progress streamlining the Small Business Portal. So far 140 of 200 documents necessary to conduct business in San Francisco are available online.
  • Mission District business advocates presented their opposition to Muni Forward changes on Mission Street.
  • Commissioners discussed the compatibility of State and City parental leave programs in light of recent legislation changes.

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