Stringer calls for paid leave reform

By Gabriel Rom

Momentum is growing for the passage in the state Senate of a bill that would expand paid family leave time for New Yorkers. A report released earlier this month by City Comptroller Scott Stringer urged the Senate to pass the Paid Family Leave Insurance Act, sponsored by state Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood).

“I applaud NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer for advocating for flexible work arrangements,” Nolan said. “I urge the passage of this legislation so that we can help all hardworking New Yorkers balance work and family and maintain their economic security.”

Passed in the Democrat-controlled state Assembly in March, the bill failed a Senate vote two weeks later, just before a fiscal year 2016 budget deal was reached. It would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for workers to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member or deal with other issues related to unforeseen familial circumstances.

“This is a bill that will offer desperately needed assistance to families who are juggling responsibilities on both the work front and the home front—without placing significant financial burdens on small businesses” said Addabbo in a June 2014 op-ed. Only 12 percent of all private sector workers have paid family leave—dropping to 5 percent for workers in the bottom fourth of wage earners, it said.

“I have never seen this much momentum for paid family leave in all my service,” Addabbo said. “This is going to happen. The need is there.”

The bill has garnered support from much of the city’s political class. The City Council passed a resolution in 2014 recommending that the state pass the Paid Family Leave InsuranceAct, and Public Advocate Letitia James has publicly offered her support numerous times.

A key sticking point that has delayed the bill’s progress is its source of funding. The proposed bill bases its funding on employee contributions rather than state funding. The legislation would use employee payroll deductions of no more than 45 cents a week in the first year to fund paid family leave through the states’ existing Temporary Disability Insurance program (TDI), raising benefit levels for the first time in 26 years through an increases in premiums that would be shared by employers and employees.

Another version of the bill sponsored by Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein differs from the Addabbo-Nolan bill on its source of funding. The Klein bill, which has certain support from Senate Republicans, calls for the state to pay at least $125 million in the first year of implementation with the following years supplemented by employee payroll fees.

Addabbo is optimistic that one version of the bill will make it into the state budget in the coming years.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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