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Hochul extends New York's paid family leave to care for a sick sibling

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
Office Of N.Y. Gov. Kathy Hochul
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday signed into law an expansion of the state’s paid family leave policy, expanding the benefit to those who care for a sibling.

Hochul also criticized congressional Democrats for failing to include a national policy for paid family leave in the latest version of their reconciliation bill.

New York already has a paid family leave policy that allows workers to take off as long as 12 weeks and still earn up to two-thirds of their salary while caring for a sick loved one, 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.

The measure that Hochul signed 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. The law takes effect January 1, 2023.

“This is personal,” Hochul said.

Hochul recounted how over three decades ago, she had to leave a job she loved with the late former U.S. 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.

She added that 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,” she said. “We need a national policy on paid family leave. Do not leave it up to the 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 U.S. is among eight countries in the world that do not, and is the only industrialized nation that offers no national program.

Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.