ALBANY — The politically influential AARP organization has backed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal for paid family leave and plans to deluge state senators with phone calls Tuesday night to push for its approval.
Toni Salomone, 72, of Islip Terrace, told the story of her husband who went into the hospital for a concern that turned gravely serious. As he lay dying, his daughter, a single mother of two, had to choose between her job and caring for her father. She chose her father, at great financial cost.
“He was always there for her, and it’s only right that she was there for him,” said Salomone at the AARP event at the Capitol announcing its lobbying effort. “People shouldn’t have to make these decisions.”
Richard McGee, 64, of Garden City, also said the lack of paid family leave made caring for his 95-year-old mother far more difficult than it should have been.
AARP, an organization of older and reliable voters, plans a teleconference with Cuomo Tuesday with 100,000 members. Afterward, the members will be switched to the offices of their local state senator to make their personal pitches for paid family leave.
Cuomo has proposed up to 12 weeks of paid family leave that would provide two-thirds of a worker’s wages to care for a newborn or sick or dying family member. The salary would be paid from a fund built by small contributions of 70 cents to $1.40 a week by employees, not their employers.
“Your endorsement is very important,” Cuomo told AARP members in the teleconference. “When the citizens speak, they listen, trust me on that. . . . It matters when they get a call from a voter, a constituent. It matters and this is an issue where we need people to speak up.”
He said he knows the importance of the measure from his experience with the death of his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo.
“That time is so precious for both the family caregiver and for the individual in the family who has the health crisis,” Cuomo told as many as 100,000 AARP members. “I can’t even find the words to tell you how important it is that I was there and how it important for my father, and how important for me.”
Sen. Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, has a similar bill pending in the Republican-led chamber. The Democratic-led Assembly has a paid family leave bill that would tap the state disability insurance system and would require payments from employers.
Several business groups oppose all three measures. Although federal law provides for 12 weeks of family leave now, it is unpaid and is limited to immediate family members. A state law providing compensation during the leave is expected to increase its use. That could force employers to lose up to three months’ lost production per employee each year. Business groups strongly oppose the Assembly plan, saying it would be another cost forced on employers at a time when Cuomo and the Assembly are also pushing to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Serious negotiations are expected to begin in days. The Assembly and Senate could include their paid family leave proposals in their separate budget proposals. Those are due to be released March 11 and will be voted on March 14. The Senate and Assembly budget proposals will be used in closed-door negotiations for the state budget due by April 1 or could be carried into the post-budget legislative session, which is scheduled to end June 16.
Correction: Richard McGee’s name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.