As Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state will soon offer paid parental leave for its employees, the Lake County Council is advancing its own program to support new parents.
Holcomb signed an executive order Wednesday giving state employees up to four weeks of paid leave, just a day after the County Council gave tentative approval to a program for county employees making them eligible for two weeks of paid leave.
Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, who proposed the program, said both parents should share in taking care of a newborn and having time to bond with a child.
"It is better for the health of the child," Cid said.
Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, said she's seen young families where fathers can't take time off work to help care for a child because they're the sole source of income. Franklin said if those fathers have to take time off to help care for a child, it financially hurts that family.
"I don't know why for once we can't step out and recognize fathers' need to have assistance as well," Franklin said.
Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, was the lone opposition vote.
"I'm not going to support this," Strong said. "I just can't support leave for fathers."
Strong said the county currently only offers $100 a week for an employee on sick leave and should focus on fixing that first.
"I think we need to think more of these employees right now," Strong said.
"You can't compare the two," said Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart.
Bilski said a father could be the sole earner for a family and needs to care for a child if the mother is sick.
Cid said if Strong wanted to introduce a proposal addressing the sick leave program, he can.
Cid floated the leave program during the council's October budget deliberations, and the board agreed to set aside $175,000 in the budget should an ordinance get adopted.
Cid based the $175,000 on the number of newborns added to the county's insurance program, which showed only 30 babies were added since 2015. A memo from the county's insurer showed 17 in 2015, eight in 2016 and five so far in 2017.
Cid said the new proposal gives employees up to two weeks of parental leave. The initial proposal sought six weeks of paid paternity leave, but her fellow council members thought it was far too much time.
Holcomb included implementing a new parental leave policy for state employees as a part of his "Next Level Agenda" for the 2018 legislative session.
"This new policy supports families and healthy kids by ensuring parents — both women and men — get the time they need to bond and adjust to a new baby or adopted child," Holcomb said in a statement. "This policy sends a strong message to attract more top talent to state government."
The state's parental leave program will start Jan. 1.
Bilski said this is an extra benefit Lake County can offer its employees and hopefully attract new workers. He said states that have parental leave programs don't suffer from so-called "brain drain" because young families want to stay in those places.
"Instead of following suit maybe we need to set the standard as well," Bilski said.