Today, A Better Balance released a new report, “The Time Is Now: Building the Paid Family and Medical Leave New Yorkers Need,” making the case for making updates to modernize New York’s paid leave program so that every New Yorker can bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, or attend to their own medical needs, without sacrificing their economic security.
In 2016, New York passed its paid family leave law, building on the preexisting temporary disability leave program. Together, the paid family leave and temporary disability insurance law constitutes New York’s paid family and medical leave program. But while the passage of paid family leave was groundbreaking, New York’s program for one’s own serious health conditions remains woefully inadequate, with benefits stuck at only $170 per week. And in the seven years since passage of the paid family leave law, many other states have surpassed New York by passing stronger paid family and medical leave laws. New York must build on its existing policy groundwork to create a program that meets New Yorkers’ needs.
A Better Balance’s key recommendations for updating the state’s paid leave program include:
- Raising benefit rates to a level that works for all workers, including eliminating the cap on benefits for one’s own health, which has been stuck at $170 per week since 1989
- Protecting workers’ jobs during medical leave so they can take time off to care for themselves without risking their economic stability
- Creating portable paid leave benefits and covering the unemployed and non-standard workers to account for the changing nature of work
- Expanding the program’s definition of family so that all workers can care for their loved ones, including chosen family
The report highlights how updated paid family and medical leave will benefit all New Yorkers, especially women, New Yorkers with disabilities, New Yorkers of color, LGBTQ New Yorkers, veterans and military families, and New Yorkers dealing with substance abuse.
“Creating a modern paid family and medical leave program is a matter of equity for our state,” said A Better Balance Senior Staff Attorney Meghan Racklin. “Especially as we continue to deal with a pandemic that has had devastating economic and health consequences for many New Yorkers, making these updates will provide necessary relief and make critical gains toward economic, gender, and racial justice.”
“A Better Balance was proud to have helped to pass New York’s landmark paid family leave program in 2016. New York has always been a leader in advancing work-family justice for its residents and setting the standard nationwide. But when it comes to ensuring workers have time to care for themselves and their loved ones, New York has fallen behind. We urge our leaders to seize the opportunity to lead the way once again with a best-in-the-nation paid family and medical leave program,” said A Better Balance Co-President Sherry Leiwant.
“Paid family and medical leave improves the health of our neighbors and our economy, but while New York was once a leader in this space, we’ve fallen far behind other states in recent years,” said Jason Cone, Chief Public Policy Officer at Robin Hood. “New York hasn’t increased the cap on temporary disability benefits since 1989 — the same year Seinfeld premiered. One-third of claims for temporary disability insurance involve pregnant women facing serious health conditions, yet they only receive poverty-level wages and have no job protection under current law. By passing S2821/A4053, someone working full time and earning minimum wage would see their benefits more than triple to $540 per week. Lawmakers and the Governor must act now to end this archaic policy.”
‘Updating the temporary disability program in New York State is a critical need for all pregnant individuals. This legislation will aid in addressing the crisis of Black maternal health and guarantee that workers are compensated with a fair wage while taking time off from work following a pregnancy outcome,” said Assemblymember Michaelle Solages. “Working together with Senator Ramos, I am honored to present this significant legislation which will offer more extensive protections and assistance to the most vulnerable workers in our state.”
“New York was once a leader in state-level pushes for TDI and Paid Family Leave, but now we have fallen woefully behind. In an effort to improve affordability and make NY a place where working people can build wealth and raise a family, we are pushing legislation to expand our TDI benefit cap to up to 90% of an employee’s wage, rather than a mere $170 a week. If we want to keep working families in our state, our budget has to be focused on lifting financial strain and putting money in workers’ pockets,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor.