STATEMENT: With the Exclusion of Paid Medical Leave from the FY25 Budget, New Yorkers Face Impossible Choice Between Health and Economic Security

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The following is a statement from A Better Balance Co-President Sherry Leiwant: 

“A Better Balance congratulates the Governor and legislature on including the right to time off to attend prenatal visits to pregnant workers in the 2025 budget. The state is facing an overwhelming maternal health challenge, and the ability to be able to attend prenatal health care appointments is an important step in protecting the health of pregnant workers.

At the same time, we are extremely disappointed that the robust paid medical leave program New Yorkers need and deserve has been omitted from the final FY25 budget. After 35 years of policy neglect, we were thrilled that all budget proposals included changes to our medical leave program that would have ensured New Yorkers who need leave from work while navigating serious health issues would no longer be forced to survive on $170 a week, while risking their job and their health insurance. But, despite being included in both the Governor’s and the legislature’s budget proposals, these much-needed reforms to the program—which has not been updated since 1989—fell by the wayside. 

Paid leave is an economic justice issue, a health equity issue, a racial justice issue, and a gender justice issue. New Yorkers navigating serious health issues—like cancer, pregnancy complications, substance use, mental health treatment, and injury—deserve better. The fact is that prenatal visits alone will not protect maternal health. In order for those doctor’s visits to be effective, it is important that the patient be able to follow professional advice to keep the pregnancy healthy. Without a decent medical leave program, pregnant patients will need to risk their job and their economic security to follow their doctor’s orders. That is an impossibility for many New Yorkers.

When New York enacted its Paid Family Leave program to support workers caring for a loved one in 2016, it was groundbreaking—and A Better Balance is proud to have led that effort. But now, compared to over a dozen states that have since passed comprehensive paid family and medical leave programs, New York has fallen far behind—and we cannot wait any longer to act. 

We thank our bill champions Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages for their tireless efforts to include a robust medical leave program in this year’s budget. We also thank Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker of the New York State Assembly Carl Heastie for their work on this issue and recognition of the importance of a strong program in their budget proposals, as well as Governor Hochul for including a raise in paid medical leave benefits along with job-protection and health insurance continuation in her initial budget proposal. We are especially grateful to our incredible partners who are part of the New York Paid Medical Leave coalition, including NAMI-NYS, NYCLU, American Cancer Society, Long COVID Justice, Prevent Child Abuse NY, NASW-NY, among many, many others. 

Now, we must finish the job. We won’t stop fighting for the robust, modernized paid family and medical leave program that would ensure New Yorkers have the support they need to care for themselves and their families, without sacrificing their economic security. We urge our lawmakers to come together and pass it and for the Governor to sign it into law during this legislative session.” 

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