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New Incentives for NY to Follow NJ’s Lead on Paid Family Leave

April 14, 2010

NEW YORK - It was almost a year ago that New Jersey became the second state in the nation to offer paid family leave, and now there are federal funds available that could get New York into the act. New York is one of five states experts say could benefit from the program, which can provide more time for new mothers to breastfeed.

President Obama included $50 million in the budget to provide grants to states that want to start paid-family-leave programs.

Ellen Bravo, director of Family Values at Work, says New York is a prime candidate, because it already offers temporary benefits, and the federal funds could help the state grow to a full paid-family-leave program.

"These funds keep people attached to the work force - and yet let them have time to recuperate if they're women who have given birth, but also to bond with their children - women, men, adoptive parents."

Bills for paid family leave in New York were introduced in Albany last year and are still pending, but have been sidelined because of the deficit.

Bravo says the new federal money could make the difference, and that paid family leave would give new mothers more time at home to breastfeed their babies. She says studies show breastfeeding saves lives and health care costs.

"It would mean 900 more infants would survive each year, and the country would save about $13 billion in health care costs. But in order to breast feed, in addition to breaks at work, you need support."

Linda Lisi Juergens with the National Association of Mothers Centers says breastfeeding is natural, but some mothers need help from lactation consultants to enable them to feed their newborns.

"The availability of that and the time to have that consultation may really be critical to how successful the nursing experience is for the baby and for the mom."

Employers will be required to give unpaid breaks for mothers to breastfeed as part of health care reform.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY