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Momentum Builds in NY for Paid Family Leave

New York workers could get 12 weeks of family leave at two-thirds pay to care for a family member. (zstupar/pixabay)
New York workers could get 12 weeks of family leave at two-thirds pay to care for a family member. (zstupar/pixabay)
February 3, 2016

ALBANY, N.Y. - The State Assembly passed a bill on Tuesday to create a system of paid family leave for all New York workers. Its backers said most workers can't afford to take time off for the birth of a child or to care for a sick family member.

Eric Williams, campaign director for the New York Paid Family Leave Insurance Campaign, said this bill would give workers two-thirds of their weekly pay up to a limit of 50 percent of the average statewide weekly wage.

"The bill also includes 12 weeks of paid family leave with job security," he said, "and covers all workers at employers of all sizes."

Similar legislation has passed the Assembly several times and is a priority issue for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but has failed to clear the state Senate.

Demos, a public policy organization, just released a brief about the need for paid family leave in New York. According to the brief's co-author, Amy Traub, 87 percent of the state's non-farm workforce could benefit from this coverage.

"There are 6.4 million New York workers who don't receive paid family leave from their employers," she said, "and that's a tremendous proportion of the the state's workforce that just don't have this critical family support."

The bill would expand the state's current temporary disability insurance law to include paid family leave, and would cost workers about $1 a week.

California, Rhode Island and New Jersey have paid family-leave legislation on the books, and Traub said that in those states, it has improved worker retention and morale.

"We also find that paid leave improves child health outcomes, including reducing infant mortality rates," she said, "and it's associated with better health outcomes among new mothers, as well."

A Siena Research Institute poll released Monday showed that 80 percent of New Yorkers support paid family leave insurance, including a majority of Republicans.

Williams said he believes the Republican majority in the state Senate may be coming around.

"The majority leader and the labor chair said they're open to seeing a paid family leave bill done," he said. "So, we want to work with everybody and get a strong bill passed that works for all workers around the state."

The text of the bill is online at assembly.state.ny.us. The Demos brief is at demos.org.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY