As national paid family leave has ended up on the cutting room floor in Washington, Governor Kathy Hochul expanded New York’s policy to include siblings taking care of their family members on Monday.
“Taking care of your family is a human right,” Hochul said at a Nov. 1 press conference to sign the bill into law at her Manhattan office. “The right to be able to not lose your income, not have to make the horrible decision, ‘Am I able to take care of my elderly parent or a newborn baby, or am I gonna have to give up my income.’ No one should have to deal with that specter.”
The law makes siblings eligible for New York’s paid family leave of up to 12 weeks, including biological or adopted siblings, half-siblings, or stepsiblings.
More than 100,000 New Yorkers a year have received family leave since the program rolled out in the Empire State in 2018, according to Hochul, and one of the law’s sponsors said the expansion would allow close family to more easily take care of people in need.
“Isn’t it better to be with somebody that you care about as opposed to maybe ending up in a hotel, ending up in a nursing home or being at home by yourself,” said Sandy Galef, who represents parts of Westchester and Putnam counties in the State Assembly.
New York lawmakers approved paid family leave in 2016 and it officially launched two years later, allowing workers to take up to 12 weeks off if they have a new child, need to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or help a relative deployed abroad on active military duty.
Eligible applicants receive up to 67% of their average weekly wage, but the amount is capped at the state’s average income, meaning a maximum benefit of $971.61 a week for 2021. With a rise of the average wage 2022, the weekly payment is set to increase to $1,068.36.
The law also guarantees that workers can return to the same job or a “comparable” one when they come back, that they can keep their health insurance on the same terms, and that employers are not allowed to discriminate or retaliate on them for requesting leave.
Only nine states have enacted paid family leave policies as of 2021 and the United States is one of a few countries — and the only rich nation — to not have a policy guaranteeing time off for new parents.
President Joe Biden originally planned to include a 12-week paid leave in his social safety net and environmental spending bill currently being negotiated in Congress, but politicos in Washington cut the proposal from the package last week to appease conservative Democrats.
Hochul called on legislators in the nation’s capital to take New York as an example for progressive policies.
“Whether it’s paid family leave, minimum wage, or rights to have an abortion, we want to make sure that while the New Yorkers benefit from these progressive ideals here, that I actually feel bad that the rest of the nation has not caught up with us,” she said. “Washington, let’s get it done.”