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Hochul extends paid family leave to caring for a sick sibling

Don Pollard
Carmen Sepulveda, Communications Director, AARP Lisa Zucker, NYCLU Governor Kathy Hochul Assemblywoman Sandy Galef Dina Bakst, Co-Founder and Co-President of A Better Balance Senator Joseph Addabbo

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed into law an expansion of the state’s paid family leave policy, widening the benefit to those who need to take care of a sibling. Hochul also criticized fellow Democrats in Congress for failing to include a national policy for paid family leave in the latest version of the social safety and climate change bill.

New York already has a paid family leave policy that allows workers to take off as long as twelve weeks and still earn up to two-thirds of their salary while caring for a sick loved one or a newborn baby or newly adopted child. It’s paid for by a small fee charged to workers. Employers can’t penalize someone for taking the leave, and must give them their job back when they return from it.

The measure signed by Hochul extends paid family leave to those who need to take care of a sibling with a serious health condition, adding to a list that already includes spouses and domestic partners, children and stepchildren, parents and parents-in-law, and grandparents and grandchildren.

“This is personal,” Hochul said.

Hochul recounted how over three decades ago, she had to leave a job she loved with the late former US Senator from New York, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, because she had to care for her young children and there was no such thing as paid family leave.

“My husband was a public servant, I was a public servant, we didn’t have the money for extra help,” said Hochul, who said at that time, working from home was not an option.

“We put our personal finances aside, and I ended up staying home,” she said.

The governor used the bill signing ceremony to criticize Democrats in Congress for failing to include a federal paid family leave program in their spending plan, saying it’s a “basic right” to be able to take care of one another.

“I actually feel bad for the rest of the nation that has not caught up to us,” the governor said. “We need a national policy on paid family leave. Do not leave it up to individual state legislatures to do the right thing. We hope they can finally find a resolution to this problem in Washington.”

More than 120 nations provide some form of paid family leave. The US is among eight countries that do not, and is the only industrialized nation that offers no national program.