February 2, 2016

Assembly Intends to Pass Paid Family Leave Act

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assemblymember Cathy Nolan and Assemblymember Michele Titus today announced the Assembly's intent to pass legislation that would provide workers in New York with up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to care for family members in need (A.3870).

Under the Paid Family Leave Act, individuals could use New York State's Temporary Disability Insurance to receive paid time off from work for up to 12 weeks to care for family members, bond with a new child or address certain issues arising from a family member's military service. During the course of the paid family leave, the worker would be paid two-thirds of their average weekly wage, up to a maximum benefit level.

"No hardworking individual in New York State should have to face financial ruin in order to take care of his or her family," said Heastie. "The New York State Assembly recognizes that there is nothing more important than the health of our families and loved ones so we have taken steps to keep families first in New York."

"Today, people are living longer and both men and women are playing more diverse roles in families and the economy," said Assemblymember Titus, chair of the Committee on Labor. "In order to protect the financial stability and values of New York families, the law needs to reflect those changes."

Currently, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act entitles some workers to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for a sick family member or to bond with a new child, however, many are not covered by the law. Forty percent of employees and eighty percent of new mothers do not qualify for the FMLA. Furthermore, many families cannot afford to take the loss of pay to take advantage of such a leave.

"Families are the foundation of our society," said Assemblymember Nolan, chair of the Education Committee and sponsor of the bill. "We need to do everything we can to help these hardworking individuals balance family and work without compromising their economic security. This legislation would help maintain the integrity of every working family in New York."

The proposal would also have a negligible impact on businesses. Because the program would expand the state's current Temporary Disability Insurance program, there would be no new administrative requirements. Funding for the plan would be financed through employee payroll deductions.

Research has shown that paid family leave programs are beneficial to both employees and businesses. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have all enacted paid family leave programs and experienced positive results including either no effect or a positive effect on employee turnover, creating savings for employers.

Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO said, "Paid Family Leave is just as much a societal issue as it is a workplace issue. No one should have to choose between providing emotional support for a family member and a paycheck. The New York State AFL-CIO remains committed to ensuring workers can put family first. We applaud Speaker Heastie and Assemblywoman Nolan for their leadership and the Assembly Majority for their ongoing support on this critical issue."

Donna Dolan, executive director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition said, "New Yorkers desperately need a strong Paid Family Leave bill passed in 2016, so families are no longer forced to choose between the health and well-being of their loved ones and financial security. A strong bill must ensure 12 weeks of job-protected leave for all private sector workers, at two-thirds of their weekly wage and increase the rate of Temporary Disability Insurance. The program must work for all families, including low-income families. We applaud Assembly Speaker Heastie, Assemblymember Nolan, Assemblymember Titus and the Assembly for their unwavering commitment and support over the years, and we are committed to working to make paid family leave a reality for all New Yorkers this year."

Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ said, "Paid Family Leave is vital for working New Yorkers. We need to ensure that no one has to sacrifice the financial support of their family in order to take care of a new baby or an ill relative. That's why 32BJ and its 80,000 members in New York State are calling for 12 weeks of paid family leave at a minimum of two-thirds of a worker's wage."

Kim Atkins, board chair of Family Planning Advocates of New York State said, "Paid Family Leave provides critically needed economic stability for New York State families and businesses, which means a healthier state, both physically and economically. We applaud Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Nolan for their leadership on this important issue, and the consistent action the Assembly has taken to provide New York families with this necessary and fundamental benefit. We look forward to continued action on Paid Family Leave, so that all New York families and businesses can not only meet their responsibilities, but thrive."

Michael Burgess, former director of the New York State Office for the Aging said, "Many middle aged persons are sometimes called upon to support the younger and older generations at the same time. There is a caregiver majority in this country and we need to enact policies that recognize that taking care of a newborn or a seriously ill parent is the most important expression of family values."

Nancy Rankin, vice president for Policy Research at Community Service Society said, "Our research shows that half of low-income working mothers in NYC have less than $500 in savings-over a third of these moms lack even $100. Without any cushion to fall back on, 12 weeks of paid family leave, with job security and insurance benefits that replace two-thirds of wages are essential. Eight out of 10 New York voters -from every party and region of the state-want to see paid family leave become a reality this session, so we applaud the Assembly for taking an important step today towards making sure that happens."

Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York said, "Too many working families are forced to make an impossible choice between their paychecks and their loved ones. That's why New York needs a strong Paid Family Leave program offering 12 weeks of job protected leave to all workers at two-thirds of a worker's wage. Thanks to Speaker Heastie, Assemblymember Nolan, and the Assembly for leading our state on a path toward a strong Paid Family Leave program that will work for all of New York's working families."

Sherry Leiwant and Dina Bakst, co-founders and co-presidents of a Better Balance said, "New Yorkers desperately need paid family leave to support them when they need to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. A Better Balance applauds Assemblymember Nolan and Senator Addabbo for their tireless work on this issue as well as Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the need for paid family leave in his State of the State. Working together we are hopeful that New York will finally enact a strong paid family leave bill this session."

Beth Finkel, state director of AARP in New York State said, "Our population is aging. New York's nearly 2.6 million family caregivers - who provide unpaid care valued at $31.3 billion a year - will only become more and more stressed as time goes on. They are a resource we should support. We need to pass a strong paid family leave law this year. Paid Family Leave would not only help parents caring for newborns, but adult children caring for their own parents, New Yorkers caring for their spouses and anyone caring for an older family member. AARP strongly supports Speaker Heastie, Assemblywoman Nolan and the Assembly in making paid family leave a priority. Paid Family Leave is both compassionate and cost-effective; it would foster more productive workplaces, giving workers the economic peace of mind they need to provide the invaluable care that helps their loved ones age with dignity at home rather than in far more costly and mostly taxpayer-funded institutional settings such as nursing homes."