Caregivers, especially those faced with leaving their full-time job to care for a loved one who is ill or recovering from an illness, may see some relief.

Legislation creating a statewide paid family leave insurance program, similar to Nebraska’s unemployment insurance system and managed by the Department of Labor, was proposed in the Nebraska legislature on January 8 (LB850). The program would provide eight weeks of assistance for those who leave work to care for others and 12 weeks for those who care for themselves, including pregnant mothers. Premiums are expected to be “well under” $2 per week and would be deducted from workers’ paychecks, according to state Senator Sue Crawford of Bellevue, sponsor of the bill.

A second bill, LB849, also sponsored by Crawford, would require hospitals to provide designated caregivers with adequate discharge information and home care instructions from medical staff.

Similar laws have been passed in other states. Federal law guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, but according to Aubrey Mancuso of the advocacy group Voices for Children in Nebraska, about one-third of the nation’s workers don’t qualify. Some employers offer paid family leave on their own, but there is no private insurance option available on the marketplace for the state to require in place of a government-run program.

Crawford said that an estimated 40 million people nationwide provide an estimated 37 billion hours of unpaid care each year, at a monetary value that “vastly exceeds” that of paid care. “We must ensure that these caregivers have the resources they need.”