New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was in Plattsburgh this morning to continue to push her federal legislation to create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program.
New York’s junior Senator visited the Child Care Coordinating Council of the North Country. She toured the child care facility and interacted with the children for a few minutes before talking about new legislation called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act - or the Family Act. It updates and amends the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act. Gillibrand says people should not have to make a choice between earning a wage and being available when a family member desperately needs them. “Today we have guaranteed unpaid leave up to twelve weeks. This will guarantee paid leave for twelve weeks. And it will give up to 66% of salary during that time. You’ll know that you will have the flexibility you need to meet that family need.”
Mother of three Kristin DeVoe described how she lost her job after taking time off when one of her children sustained severe burns and was hospitalized in Boston. “I struggled to make ends meet with three small children. I did the best that I could. I had no money. I’m hoping that this act will help parents like me, who have small children and especially one parent households, get through times like this. Where you can’t work and you have other children to take care of and you have no income and your job is replaced. And you have no place to turn. Even though this will not solve all of these problems, it will definitely help.”
Senator Gillibrand’s measure also guarantees job retention. The Democrat expressed her dismay that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not provide paid family leave. She says our economic system is out of step with the needs of the modern workforce. “The fact that we have no support, we have no paid family medical leave in this country, means that businesses lose out on really good employees. Employees that have trained. Employees that have been there a long time. Because they can’t afford to retain that worker with paid leave. So we have to look to how we can change our policies to actually support our workforce today.”
Past chair of the NYS Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues and current co-chair of the legislature’s Rural Resources Commission, Assemblywoman Addie Russell of the 116th District, says providing paid leave would actually help spur economic growth. “She talked about the fact that this is going to allow our families to be able to make very important choices in a much more palatable manner. Equally we have to talk about how important this is to our business community. Businesses know the value of their employees. And I think they’re eager for programs like this, that their employees can know that they have a job to come back to and that they’re not going to lose all of that training and all of the resources that they’ve put into their job and that the employers have put into their workers
Paid family leave would be an earned benefit funded through employee and employer contributions. An independent trust fund would be created within the Social Security Administration to administer the program. Gillibrand’s measure is patterned after laws in Rhode Island, New Jersey and California - the only states that have enacted paid family leave.