PRESS RELEASE: Advocates Rally Alongside Senator Jessica Ramos & Assemblymember Michaelle Solages at New York State Capitol for Stronger Paid Medical Leave

Coalition led by A Better Balance calls for stronger action on Temporary Disability Insurance in FY25 budget and passage of S2821/A4053 to modernize paid family and medical leave program overall.
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Today national work-family legal advocacy organization A Better Balance, alongside coalition partners including NYCLU, the American Cancer Society, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Equality New York, Prevent Child Abuse, Junior League, National Association of Social Workers, March of Dimes, and more, rallied at the New York State Capitol to call for stronger action on comprehensive paid medical leave, known as Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI), for New York in the FY25 budget. 

The groups were joined by Senate Labor Chair Jessica Ramos and Assemblymember and BHPA Legislative Caucus Chair Michaelle Solages, whose bills S2821 and A4053 would bring New York’s paid family & medical leave program into the 21st century to meet the needs of today’s evolving labor market.

New York’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program was groundbreaking when it passed in 2016, and provides job-protected leave for workers to care for a new child or a seriously ill loved one. But New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program hasn’t been updated since 1989, and has fallen far behind other states when it comes to providing adequate paid medical leave for one’s own health. Together, PFL and TDI make up New York’s paid family & medical leave program. 

New York’s TDI program currently offers no job protection and provides a maximum benefit of just $170 per week for workers dealing with their own serious medical needs, which could include cancer treatment, substance use disorder treatment, injury, chronic illness including long COVID, need for time to ensure a healthy pregnancy as well as pregnancy loss or stillbirth, and more.

While Governor Hochul intends to increase TDI benefits in the FY25 budget, she has proposed phasing in an increase over the next five years — and advocates want to see increases implemented much sooner in order to support New York’s lowest income workers, and to help combat the urgent Black maternal health crisis. The bills S2821 and A4053 proposed by Sen. Ramos and AM Solages would raise the cap to 67% of the average NYS weekly wage by January 2025.

“In New York, there is a glaring inequality when it comes to support for individuals who need to care for a loved one, versus support for those who need to care for their own health,” said Sherry Leiwant, co-founder of A Better Balance. “While we appreciate Governor Hochul’s commitment to increasing paid medical leave benefits, it is not something that can wait years. Right now, low-wage, hourly workers cannot afford to take time off to address their health needs with just $170 a week to replace their paychecks. People dealing with substance use disorder should not have to make the choice between seeking treatment and paying rent. Black women should not have to forgo going to critical prenatal appointments or taking time off of work to keep their pregnancies healthy. New Yorkers who manage chronic illness, health crises such as cancer, disabilities, mental health, and more deserve a fairer paid leave program. The proposals that Senator Ramos and Assemblymember Solages put forward accomplish that.”

 “We are experiencing a nationwide maternal health crisis that disproportionately impacts Black women. Right here in New York, the maternal mortality rate for Black women has quadrupled in the last seven years. Modernizing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI), New York’s medical leave program, is a gender and racial justice imperative and is long overdue,” said Allie Bohm, senior policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Albany lawmakers must take the Executive Budget proposal to modernize TDI even further to ensure access for all New Yorkers who deserve time off to address their own health needs. The legislature must include the more inclusive TDI update in S.2821-B/A.4053-B in their one-house budgets.”

In addition to improving New York’s paid medical leave (TDI)  program, the bills would also make meaningful changes to PFL to meet the needs of today’s New Yorkers. Those changes include creating portable paid family leave benefits to cover the unemployed and reduce the penalty for changing jobs, and adopting an inclusive definition of family in order to extend paid leave protections to the LGBTQ+ community.

Currently, workers cannot qualify for paid family leave benefits until they have been employed by their current employer for nearly six months. If they start a new job, they must start this clock over from scratch. If they are laid off or their job ends, they lose their benefits altogether, even if they had been eligible for and paid for benefits for years.

“As an organization that was formed to support caregivers, NAMI-NYS has a unique perspective of the myriad of challenges family members face in this demanding role. New York’s Paid Family Leave program has benefited many families allowing them to play a more active role in their loved one’s recovery,” said Matthew Shapiro, Senior Director of Government Affairs at the National Alliance on Mental Illness in New York. “However, it is imperative that New York updates the program to make it more inclusive and equitable as well as ensure that those facing these conditions receive the same support their families would receive. NAMI-NYS is glad to see that addressing Paid Family and Paid Medical Leave is a priority for both Governor Hochul and the legislature but is clear that the proposal made by Senator Ramos and Assemblywoman Solages will provide New Yorkers more equitable and inclusive support, increased protections and deliver these needs in a timelier manner than the Executive proposal.”

 “I firmly believe that the Ramos/Solages Bill is not just a legislative proposal—it’s a declaration of our commitment to inclusivity, equity, and dignity for every New Yorker,” said Erin Brigid with Equality New York. “This bill stands as a beacon of hope, promising a future where no one is forced to choose between their health and financial stability. Together, we have a historic opportunity to transform our state into a place where everyone, regardless of their circumstances, is supported and valued.” 

“Treating cancer is a full-time job and New York needs a better paid family & medical leave program,” said Michael Davoli, Senior Government Relations Director at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Paid family and medical leave is critical for people with serious illnesses and health conditions and their caregivers. Right now, many New York families with a member battling cancer are not afforded the time to focus on their health without facing financial devastation. Being able to take time off, including intermittent leave, to receive or help facilitate necessary treatment without sacrificing your economic well-being is essential and makes a tremendous difference in cancer patients’ lives. We strongly encourage state leaders to not wait to strengthen and update New York’s paid family and medical leave program.”

“As a statewide organization dedicated to inclusive gender equity in New York State and across our nation, PowHer NY strongly supports the Ramos/Solage legislation updating and dramatically improving our personal and family paid leave benefit programs,” said Blue Carreker, Program Chair and Board Member of PowHer NY. “The long battle for equal opportunity and equal pay for women will never be achieved as long as those who choose to bear children are threatened with job loss, loss of health insurance, and/or a severe drop in wages, should they require time off for maternity care, recovery from childbirth or bonding with a new child. All working New Yorkers — not just some — should have easy access to a generous wage replacement benefit, job protection and continued health insurance whenever they must take time from work for a serious personal or family illness or injury.”

“At Prevent Child Abuse New York, we center our work around primary prevention to prevent child abuse in all forms before problems even occur. Reducing stressors like income insecurity can help prevent child abuse,” said Timothy Hathaway, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse. “Making sure families have the income they need when they are also facing a health issue that can keep them out of work is a very important primary prevention strategy. That’s why we  support strengthening New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave programs.”

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