Our local communities — and America as a whole — are slowly returning to a new sense of normality as more Americans are being vaccinated against Covid-19 and the positivity rates drop. However, there is still much work to do to bring our communities and country not only back to normal, but to be even better than before.
One way we as elected officials, both locally and nationally, can strengthen the American workforce and begin to rebuild our economy is to better protect and care for our workers by creating strong safety nets for them. The middle class makes up a large portion of the American workforce, and it is imperative that we have a strong foundation that allows more Americans the sense of safety they get knowing that if they have a baby who is ill, or need to care for a family member, they will be financially stable.
Here in New York, I worked towards ensuring that our workers have the time off they need with New York Paid Family Leave. This initiative, which became state law in 2016, is funded by the employees themselves through payroll deductions and provides workers with a portion of their salary during their leave. In 2021, eligible employees in New York State will have access to up to 12 weeks of job-protected, paid time off for a host of issues, including being under quarantine due to Covid-19.
Now our federal government intends to emulate our success and bring a paid family leave program to the entire country. On April 28, President Biden announced the American Families Plan, which will invest in our children, families and economic future. This once-in-a-generation investment will bolster the foundations of middle-class prosperity including education, healthcare and childcare. The American Families Plan will create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, much like we have here in New York.
The national program will ensure workers receive partial wage replacement to take time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with a loved one’s military deployment, find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence, heal from their own serious illness, or take time to deal with the death of a loved one. It will guarantee 12 weeks of paid parental, family and personal illness/safe leave by year 10 of the program, and also ensure workers get three days of bereavement leave per year starting in year one.
This plan will provide economic security to families across the country — ensuring everyone has the opportunity to contribute to the economy, while caring for themselves and their families. By allowing workers to take time off to care for their health and the health of their relatives, it creates a stronger, healthier and more productive workforce.
Together, we can rebound from the pandemic and build back our society even stronger than before.
Joe Addabbo Jr. is New York State Senator for the 10th District, in central and South Queens.