Gov. Kathy Hochul Monday signed legislation that will enable siblings to become eligible for New York state paid Family Leave. Credit: Governor Kathy Hochul's Office

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation Monday expanding the state's Paid Family Leave bill to include caring for siblings, calling the change a basic "human right."

Existing state law covers employees caring for spouses, domestic partners, children and stepchildren, parents and in-laws, grandparents and grandchildren with a serious health condition.

The expanded measure changes the definition of "family members" to include biological siblings, adopted siblings, stepsiblings and half-siblings. These family members, officials said, can live outside of state or the country.

"This is a very real problem for New Yorkers," Hochul said at a Manhattan bill signing event. "The basic right to take care of each other. To not lose your job and have a position waiting for you."

The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D- Ozone Park) and Assemb. Sandra Galef (D-Ossining), goes into effect Jan. 1, 2023.

The measure builds on the Paid Family Leave legislation, which went into effect in 2018. The employee-paid insurance program provides workers with job-protected, paid time off to be with a newborn, adopted or fostered child; to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service.

Paid Family Leave may also be available if a family member is under quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.

Gov. Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Eligible workers can take up to 12 weeks off at two-thirds of their pay.

"For too many workers a sibling is the only family they have when they're facing a serious health issue," said Dina Bakst, co-founder and co-president of A Better Balance, a nonprofit that advocates for employee rights. "This update to the law will help ensure the strongest possible protections for New Yorkers who need time off to care for their seriously ill loved ones."

Hochul said more than 100,000 New Yorkers utilize Paid Family Leave every year.

Last week, a national program of paid family medical leave was cut from President Joe Biden's sprawling reconciliation package after pushback from Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat.

The United States is one of just six countries without any form of national program of paid leave and one of eight without a national maternity leave policy, according the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA.

"I feel actually bad for the rest of the nation that has not caught up with us," Hochul said. "We need a national policy on paid family leave and not leave it up to the individual state legislatures to do the right thing."

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