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Gillibrand proposes paid family leave legislation

Ellen Abbott/WRVO
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announces her family leave proposal in Utica

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is proposing new federal legislation that would create paid family and medical leave. She says the idea is to establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program, that would allow anyone who needs time off for a family emergency, to be able to take this time off while still getting paid.

"I want it to affect anyone who needs that flexibility at a certain time in their life, whether you’re a mom who just had a baby, or just adopted a baby. Whether you’re a worker who’s mother is dying, or you have a family member who is gravely ill and you need home care," said the senator. "It’s just for those family emergencies, when you need that flexibility and you literally have to make that decision, do I have to quit my job or care for my dying mother.”

Gillibrand says it would be paid for with an independent trust fund administered through Social Security. Workers and employers would fund the program through payroll deductions that amount to 0.2 percent of wages.

"We’re literally just using the Social Security system. So there’s nothing new to create. And there won’t be any significant administrative cost. Any amount of administration is going to come out of the amount that the employee and employer put in to the system. So it has no addition to the deficit. So there’s no cost," she said at an event Friday in Utica.

Right now in the U.S., employees who work for a company of a certain size, can take unpaid time off in the event of a new baby, or a sick family member -- but few employers offer paid time off.

Gillibrand says it’s mostly a women’s issue, since women tend to be the caregivers.

“I think it takes a call to action from America’s women to ask them to be heard on this issue.  It will help them advance their careers, provide more for their kids, bring home a bigger paycheck, not miss out on those promotions, but have that flexibility at the urgent, urgent times in life that inevitably happen to everyone.”

Gillibrand expects to get bipartisan support for the legislation and hopes there will be a vote on it by the end of the year. The Democrat made several stops across the state today to explain the proposal.


Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.