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Advocates say NY’s paid family leave needs to be expanded

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  • Staff Report 

Advocates are calling for an update to New York’s paid family and medical leave laws, which include increasing benefit rates, protecting workers’ jobs, and making benefits portable. These proposals were outlined in a report released by the family legal advocacy organization A Better Balance on Thursday. The report highlights the current gaps in the law that could negatively impact LGBTQ people, people of color, military families, and New Yorkers struggling with substance abuse.

Meghan Racklin, a senior attorney with A Better Balance, said that creating a modern paid family and medical leave program is a matter of equity for the state, especially as New Yorkers continue to face the economic and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York’s current paid family leave law was approved in 2016 and was expanded in 2021 to include siblings. However, advocates say that the state is not keeping up with additional protections for workers to take time off to care for a loved one or bond with a new baby.

The report from A Better Balance suggests ending the cap on benefits under the medical leave law, making paid leave benefits portable, and providing coverage for people who are unemployed. Additionally, advocates want to expand the definition of family under the law to allow people to care for a broader array of chosen loved ones.

State lawmakers have also proposed measures to address gaps in coverage for family and medical leave in New York. Assemblymember Michaelle Solages is backing a measure with state Sen. Jessica Ramos that would update the temporary disability program in the state and aid in addressing the crisis of Black maternal health.

Advocates say that the proposed changes to New York’s paid family and medical leave laws would provide necessary relief and make critical gains toward economic, gender, and racial justice.