Corrections on paid family leave, aging services

I reported in my last post that Governor Cuomo’s 30 day budget amendments included an enhancement of his paid family leave proposal.  I had said that the Governor would raise it to 67% of the worker’s weekly wage.  I said this would start at 35% of the weekly wage, however, this should be corrected to 50% of the weekly wage as the Paid Family Leave coalition requested.  Also the statewide average weekly wage cap is raised to 67%.  See the outline of changes below
Major 30-day amendments:

Benefit level. The amendments revise the original proposal with respect to both wage replacement and cap on the benefit levels. The cap and wage replacement rates will both start at a higher percentage than in the original and go up to a higher level at the end of 4 years.
The Governor’s new phase in/wage replacement/benefit cap proposal is as follows:
2018: 50% of a worker’s own average weekly wage up to 50% of the statewide average weekly wage
2019: 55% of a worker’s own average weekly wage up to 55% of the statewide average weekly wage
2020: 60% of a worker’s own average weekly wage up to 60% of the statewide average weekly wage
2021: 67% average weekly wage up to 67% Statewide average weekly wage

Protecting health insurance during leave. Addition of language indicating that any health insurance provided to the employee by the employer must be continued during family leave on the same terms it was provided before the leave.

Self-employed opt-in. Allowing self employed individuals to elect coverage under paid family leave.

Public employee opt-in. Public unions may opt their employees in to the paid family leave program through collective bargaining; also in Nolan/Addabbo

Timeline for contested claims extended. The time for claimants to challenge a benefit determination was extended from 60 days to 26 weeks for both TDI and PFL.

Enforcement of job protection clarified. Job protection was strengthened by clarifying the enforcement provision.


Correction on funding for aging services:

I noted that $177 million in funds for enhancing aging community services was requested by LiveOn-NY, Lifespan and AARP.  AARP was not part of that recommendation but rather the New York Association on Aging representing area agencies on aging.

In addition StateWide Senior Action Council has made the following recommendations separately:

1. Increase appropriations to reduce waiting lists in these vital services
2. Ensure that additional funds added do not require a match by local governments in order for the funds to be distributed.
3. Commit to a multi-year investment of additional resources to bring core services into alignment with the client population growth.
4. Provide sufficient funding to local offices for the aging to meet the minimum wage increases for home care workers.

The following StateWide recommendations were made jointly with AARP:
Community Services for the Elderly program (CSE): additional funding during budget negotiations in order to eliminate waiting lists.  Request an additional $25 million, with no local government match required.
Caregiver Supports: an additional $30 million in order to create additional respite and caregiver support services.


Assembly Speaker Heastie Wants to Add Higher Tax Bracket for $5 Million Households

The national debate about income inequality in the presidential campaign is also fully playing out in this state legislative session with calls for paid family leave and a minimum wage increase to $15/hour.  Now, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie wants to extend a higher tax on households with income of one million dollars, add a new rate for those making more than $5 million or more while offering a tax decrease for middle income households.   This issue was supposed to take center stage next year when 2011 tax increases on the wealthy expire but Heastie wants to have that battle this year and wants to raise over a billion dollars to pay for education increase and infrastructure projects.

Though Governor Cuomo has moved to the left on paid family leave and the minimum wage, he is not endorsing tax increases for the wealthy . The State Senate Republican leadership is also opposed.   Heastie’s decision to boldly put a tax increase on the wealthy as a key part of the agenda is a clear indication of how much the political climate has changed from the days when tax increases were only discussed during times when there were budget deficits to be balanced.  Heastie is proposing the tax increases while there is a budget surplus.


Governor Cuomo has now officially put forward a change in his 30 day budget amendments to make his proposed paid family leave proposal gradually reach a 2/3 wage replacement rate though it will start at 35%.  Previously the Governor was only willing to propose raising the amount of the paid leave to equal up to 50% of a worker’s weekly wage up to 50% of the statewide average wage.    By agreeing to raise the paid leave to 2/3 of a worker’s weekly wage, he is more in line with the Paid Family Leave Coalition though it wants to start the program at 50% of a worker’s salary and raise it to two thirds.

Meanwhile Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus proposed last week his own paid family leave proposal which would be entirely employee paid and would address an increase in the temporary disability insurance program separately.   That idea will be more amenable to the Senate Republican leadership which is also trying to shield business from added costs for paid family leave.

Cuomo’s agreement to enhance his proposal came after pressure from the Paid Family Leave Coalition which balked at his plan to only provide 50% of weekly wages.  The Governors new proposal is an indication of how seriously he wants to build support to pass paid family leave this year.