Simotas and Peralta Host Rally in Support of New York Family Leave Act

Elected officials, community leaders come out in support of longer family leave
July 9, 2012

Astoria, N.Y. – Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and State Senator Jose Peralta hosted a rally in support of the New York Family Leave Act, legislation they sponsored in their respective houses to extend family leave from 12 weeks to 24 weeks. The legislators discussed how the idea for the legislation came about and how the specifics of the bill will impact families all over New York.

Both legislators understand the most important time of a child’s life is the first few weeks they spend at home with their families. Not only is this time important for the child but it is also important for the parent as well. For parents, this time is not only important, it also is special.

“As an expectant mother, I look forward to the exciting early weeks of my baby girl’s life knowing there are few things more important to her well-being than proper bonding and attachment at the early stages,” Simotas said. “All of New York’s hardworking families deserve to spend this time with their children.” The legislation, which Simotas authored, extends unpaid, job-protected leave for families with new children from 12 weeks to 24 weeks.

The constant presence of a parent in the early stages of a child’s development has been proven to have a profound effect on the immediate and long-term physical and emotional health of the child. In “Parental Leave and Child Health” (Journal of Health Economics, 2000), Christopher J. Ruhm explains that rates of child mortality and maternal depression decrease with each additional week of parental leave. Verbal ability, math and reading scores are negatively affected by parents working in the first year of a child’s life.

Prolonged breastfeeding provides similar benefits for children and their mothers, though it is difficult for a mother working outside the home to breastfeed. According to the journal Pediatrics, breastfeeding provides infants protection against disease and improves a child’s cognitive development. Breastfeeding is also associated with a lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer and of osteoporosis for mothers.

“It is essential that New York recognize the benefits of extended family leave to early childhood development and the quality of life of working parents,” Peralta said. “I am proud to sponsor this important legislation and look forward to its passage, which will be a victory for families here in western Queens and throughout our state.”

In these difficult economic times, it is important to note that extended parental leave is a proven, cost-effective method for controlling health care expenses for families, employers and the government. Extended leave comes at no cost to the government. Any costs for the employer are overwhelmed by the benefits. An employee with a healthy, well-adjusted child needs less time off in the future, requires fewer services and will be happy and committed to the workplace.

Public service employees will be directly affected with the passage of this bill. These employees will not be penalized for their leave of absence. An added benefit of the bill is parents of recently adopted children are also eligible for leave of absence.

Though the United States is the only developed nation in the world without a paid family leave policy, I believe that extended leave is an important first step towards prioritizing the health of our families. Proper healthcare is a constant concern for many Americans. This bill will only continue to address and correct this issue.

The Federal Family Medical Leave Act provides a framework for New York State to enact legislation that reflects the unique concerns of our families, workers and employers. The New York Family Leave Act addresses these concerns by ensuring that working families can provide their children with the best possible future.