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Gillibrand Pushes For Paid Leave Extension In Relief Bill Negotiations

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Pat Bradley/WAMC

As representatives in Washington debate a new COVID-19 relief bill, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says an extension of a paid leave provision should be included.

Back in March, when Congress first came together to pass emergency COVID-19 relief, a provision was passed to guarantee paid leave to workers as kids got pulled out school and life had to adjust to a new normal.

With time running out before the end of the year, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is advocating for an extension of the program.

The Democrat held a conference call on the subject on Wednesday. She said paid leave helps prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“A recent study in Health Affairs found that the introduction in paid leave provisions helped reduce COVID infections by about 15,000 cases per day. We should not be abandoning a program that helped us flatten the curve amid a skyrocketing number of cases,” said Gillibrand.

Gillibrand says with a $900 billion relief bill being considered, extending emergency paid leave is a fraction of the cost. The Senator was joined by Dawn Huckelbridge of the campaign Paid Leave For All.

“Paid leave is one of our most effective, impactful, and widely supported relief policies in the country. The $1.35 billion that it would cost to extend the program and carry families through the holidays is a fraction of this relief package. It is something that we can afford and, frankly, it is not something that we can afford to lose,” said Huckelbridge.

Gillibrand says funding for paid family leave can’t stop there. The Senator is also the sponsor of a bill that would provide workers sick time and emergency leave beyond the pandemic.

“We need to pass the Paid Leave Act, which not only provides 14 emergency paid sick days 12 weeks of emergency paid leave and medical leave to all workers, but also creates a universal paid leave program,” said Gillibrand.

In a related matter, New York’s Capital Region is experiencing challenges in access to child care.  

The Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership is collecting data through a pair of surveys on the need for childcare in Saratoga and Warren Counties.

Saratoga Partnership President and CEO Shelby Schneider says the number of care centers in the area is shrinking – a problem before the pandemic.

“Finding quality child care, especially infant and child care, was a challenge then. But in the Capital Region, and there’s a lot of data to support this pre-COVID, we have nearly 60 percent fewer childcare spots in the Capital Region than we had in 2008,” said Schneider.

As more parents are returning to work compared to the onset of the pandemic months ago, a study released in October by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce shows childcare remains a barrier for parents who want to return to work. The study found 39 percent of parents have not returned to work. The study says 26 percent of respondents are likely to return. 13 percent are unsure or unlikely to return –  down from a June study that found 22 percent of parents uncertain, which the Chamber finds is reflective of more anticipation of a more “typical” work situations.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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