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August 23, 2019

New York’s paid family leave sets historic records as workers take advantage of program

August 13, 2019

The average age of someone claiming time to bond with a new addition to their family in 2018 was 34. (Getty Images/iStock)

ALBANY — Family comes first in the Empire State.

In its first year, more than 128,000 people took advantage of New York’s landmark paid family leave as the program set a number of historical firsts, according to a new report issued by Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday.

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Compared to other states’ initial rollout of paid family leave programs, New York had the highest overall participation rate, highest percentage of men who used it to take time off from work and the highest percentage of workers who took leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

“New York enacted the nation’s strongest paid family leave law so that no one has to choose between losing a job and missing the birth of a child or caring for a sick family member,” Cuomo said.“This initial success demonstrates once again our commitment to not only enacting progressive policies, but also to achieving real long-term results.”

The program offers job-protected, paid leave to bond with a newborn or child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition or to help relieve family pressures when someone is deployed abroad on active military service.

The report provides a look at who’s using the program and how it’s being applied.

A majority of those who used the leave in the first year made less than $60,000 a year and the group filing the most claims made less than $40,000 a year, according to the governor.

“New York was the first state to provide 12 weeks of job-protected leave, and that’s key; it enables low-income workers to actually take advantage of this benefit because they know they have a job to return to,” said Nancy Rankin, vice president of the Community Service Society, an anti-poverty organization.

Roughly 84,500 people took time off to bond with a newborn last year, while more than 39,000 took advantage of the program to care for a family member dealing with a health condition.

The average age of someone claiming time to bond with a new addition to their family in 2018 was 34.

In 2018, the measure offered up to eight weeks of time off with 50% of an employee’s pay covered. This year, New Yorkers are eligible to take up to 10 weeks of paid time off with at 55% of their average weekly wage covered.

Incremental increases will continue until 2021, when employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of their average weekly wage.

A total of 8 million workers are covered, including over 2 million who had no previous coverage or protection under the federal Family & Medical Leave Act, which offers job protection without any pay.

Nationally, only 16% of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer, according to the Department of Labor. The U.S. remains the only industrialized country not to offer paid leave to parents on the federal level.

“We’re excited to see the positive first-year results of New York’s groundbreaking Paid Family Leave Law and the impact it has had on new parents and caregivers around the state, enabling them to have great financial stability and job security during these critical moments in life,” said Donna Dolan, the former executive director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition.

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