PHOTO: With Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (l.) and State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins looking on, Gov. Cuomo last week signed into law the 12-week paid family leave policy and $15 minimum wage plan. Courtesy of Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor
By Michael V. Cusenza
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday signed legislation enacting what have been widely deemed the two most significant victories of this year’s budget tango: 12-week paid family leave policy and statewide $15 minimum wage plan.
Cuomo’s office called the paid family leave program “the most comprehensive in the nation.” When fully phased- in, employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid family leave when caring for an infant, a family member with a serious health condition or to relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. Benefits will be phased-in beginning in 2018 at 50 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, and fully implemented in 2021 at 67 percent of their average weekly wage, capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. This program will be funded entirely through a nominal payroll deduction on employees so it costs businesses – both big and small – nothing, Cuomo noted. Employees are eligible to participate after having worked for their employer for six months.
“By moving to a $15 statewide minimum wage and enacting the strongest paid family leave policy in the nation, New York is showing the way forward on economic justice,” Cuomo said. “These policies will not only lift up the current generation of low-wage workers and their families, but ensure fairness for future generations and enable them to climb the ladder of opportunity. I am proud to sign these programs into law, because they will ensure a stronger, fairer and brighter future for all New Yorkers.”
And Cuomo promised that the “historic” increase in minimum wage will ultimately reach $15 an hour for all workers in all industries across the state.
For workers in New York City employed by large businesses (those with at least 11 employees), the minimum wage would rise to $11 at the end of 2016, then another $2 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2018.
For workers in New York City employed by small businesses (those with 10 employees or fewer), the minimum wage would rise to $10.50 by the end of 2016, then another $1.50 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2019.
For workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, the minimum wage would increase to $10 at the end of 2016, then $1 each year after, reaching $15 on 12/31/2021.
For workers in the rest of the state, the minimum wage would increase to $9.70 at the end of 2016, then another .70 each year after until reaching $12.50 on 12/31/2020 – after which will continue to increase to $15 on an indexed schedule to be set by the director of the Division of Budget in consultation with the Department of Labor.
It is estimated that more than 2.3 million people will be affected by the increases in the minimum wage.
However, not every lawmaker was a fan of the final versions of the new legislation.
“I am delighted we are now enacting a paid family leave program as part of this State Budget. While it doesn’t go as far as I would like in some ways, and I think it is being implemented much too slowly, I see it as a step in the right direction,” said State Sen. Joe Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach). “Let me be clear, I have repeatedly said that it has never been a question of IF a family leave policy would be adopted in New York State. I have said it was only a question of WHEN. But just for the record, delaying benefits for years after the legislative adoption of a paid family leave program was NOT the ‘when’ I meant.”