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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Makes Emotional Plea For Paid Family Leave

Author: Renee Cerullo/Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New York State Governor Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State

On Wednesday, January 13, 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo delivered his “State Of The State” address, in which he offered proposals for progress in New York. www.governor.ny.gov/news/video-transcript-built-lead-governor-cuomos-2016-state-state-and-budget-address 

Gov. Cuomo

Among the highlights of the speech were proposals for ethical reforms in the state legislature, improvements to infrastructure throughout New York State, and investment in affordable housing. Of particular interest to women were proposals for Paid Family Medical Leave, and increasing the Minimum Wage to $15.

Women make up a majority of those earning the minimum wage, which has not kept pace with the rate of inflation over the last 50 years. Many of the modern, industrial nations of the world, our allies, have much higher minimum wages, without the disastrous consequences predicted by those who oppose raising the minimum wage. In fact, each of those states that have raised their minimum wages have experienced job growth much higher than that in every single state that did not raise the minimum wage. This is because raising the minimum wage pumps millions into local economies, providing a massive stimulus effect.

The Governor’s proposal for raising the minimum wage 

Part K - Increase in the Minimum Wage Purpose: This bill would gradually increase the minimum hourly wage from $9 to $15. 13 Summary of Provisions and Statement in Support: A minimum wage ensures that the most vulnerable members of the workforce can participate in and contribute to a robust economy. An increase would improve the standard of living for 2.3 million workers and inject $15.7 billion into New York's economy. New York’s minimum wage has not kept pace with increases in the cost of living. At present, eight states and the District of Columbia have a higher minimum wage than New York, including our neighbors Connecticut, Vermont, and Massachusetts. New York’s current statutory minimum wage of $9, which took effect on December 31, 2015 and was enacted with the FY 2014 Budget, is insufficient to lift a family of four out of poverty. This bill would amend section 652 of the Labor Law to increase the minimum wage by $1.50, to $10.50, in New York City and by $0.75, to $9.75, in the rest of the State effective July 1, 2016. Incremental increases would continue until the wage reaches $15 in New York City on December 31, 2018 and in the rest of the State on July 1, 2021. Budget Implications: Enactment of this bill has broad budget implications as it increases the standard of living for workers, reduces poverty, and incentivizes fair and more efficient business practices. Effective Date: This bill would take effect immediately.

Women are often the caregivers who must take time off from work to care for children, senior relatives, or other family members.

While the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires covered employers to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons, many workers cannot afford to lose their pay for extended periods of time. They have to balance taking time off for such qualified medical and family reasons as personal or family illness, family military leave, pregnancy, adoption, or foster care placement, and being able to pay their rent, and for other expenses of daily life. Most of the world recognizes the value of Paid Family Leave; the United States is one of just three countries, out of 185, that does not have guaranteed paid maternity leave. The other two are Oman and Papua New Guinea. 

Legislation has been introduced at both the state level and federal to rectify this injustice. The states of New Jersey, California and Rhode Island offer some paid family leave, and there are proposals in other states for such paid leave. 

Governor Cuomo’s Paid Family Medical Leave proposal in the State Budget for 2016
http://publications.budget.ny.gov/eBudget1617/fy1617artVIIbills/PPGG_ArticleVII_MS.pdf is as follows:

Part H - Establish Paid Family Leave Purpose: This bill would authorize Paid Family Leave (PFL) to allow employees to bond with an infant or newly-adopted child or to care for a seriously-ill family member. Summary of Provisions and Statement in Support: Federal law currently provides for unpaid family leave, which can create a dilemma for those caught between the need to care for a sick relative or newborn and the pressure to return to work and earn money. Moreover, Federal unpaid family leave only covers approximately 60 percent of all workers. This bill would establish a comprehensive statewide PFL program providing:

  • Employees up to 12 weeks of PFL on an annual basis to bond with an infant or newly adopted child or to care for a seriously-ill family member. All private employees would be covered and State and local government employers would be able to opt-in to coverage through collective bargaining or other agreements;
  • Job protections and protection against retaliatory actions; and
  • A phase-in of PFL benefits over four years, beginning in 2018, when employees would be eligible to receive 35 percent of their average weekly wage to a maximum benefit of 35 percent of the State’s average weekly wage. The PFL benefit would be fully phased-in by 2021, as follows: In 2019, the effective rates increase to 40 percent; o In 2020, to 45 percent; and o In 2021, to 50 percent.

13 Costs to support the PFL program would be established as follows:

  • Premiums for PFL policies would be supported through a minimal payroll deduction on all covered employees; and 
  • PFL coverage will be provided by insurance carriers, the State Insurance Fund (SIF), or self-insured employers. In order to limit premium volatility, the Superintendent of Financial Services will determine whether coverage provided by carriers and SIF will be experience rated or community rated. Finally, this bill sets forth a dispute resolution process. Budget Implications: Enactment of this bill is necessary to implement the FY 2016-17 Executive Budget. Effective Date: This bill would take effect on April 1, 2016.

On the Federal level, The Family Act has been introduced:

Sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D – Conn.) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – N.Y.), the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act (H.R. 1439/S. 786) would ensure people have some income during family or medical leave. This legislation does not have the support of the majority party in the House and Senate, and therefore has not advanced.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Makes Emotional Plea For Paid Family Leave - Video


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