By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny said a bill he helped the State Assembly pass will go a long way toward addressing New York’s child care crisis if it becomes law because it would institute paid family leave for residents.
If approved by the State Senate and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislation would also establish child care as a “compelling family reason” to voluntarily separate from employment, allowing parents to be eligible for unemployment benefits.
The legislation, which was approved by the assembly last week, seeks to expand access to quality, affordable child care, according to Brook-Krasny (D-Coney Island-Bay Ridge), who said the assembly’s action came in response to recent recommendations made by the Assembly Child Care Workgroup. The group released its recommendations in December.
While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers to care for a sick relative or bond with a new child, most people can’t afford to take unpaid time from work, Brook-Krasny said. The assembly passed legislation to implement paid family leave benefits for injury or sickness, pregnancy or to care for a family member.
“You shouldn’t have to choose between your job and caring for a loved one,” Brook-Krasny said. “We need to support working parents by giving them the flexibility they need to take care of their families.”
The assembly bill also seeks to help parents in need of affordable child care. “Parents are working long hours and cutting costs wherever they can just to stay afloat. Having access to quality, affordable child care shouldn’t be such a burden. We need to fix the system so working families get the reliable, safe and nurturing child care they need and can depend upon,” Brook-Krasny said.
With the economy still lagging, dual incomes are often necessary to provide for a family, according to Brook-Krasny, who said that over 90 percent of families rely on child care. In New York State, the cost of child care averages nearly $15,000 a year.
“Working parents shouldn’t have to break the bank to afford quality care for their children. The steps we are taking to improve the child care system will give hardworking families peace of mind,” Brook-Krasny said.
The legislation requires local social services districts to provide a 60-day notice prior to lowering child care eligibility or raising the copayment.
"We have heard from parents, child care providers and advocates from across the state. We have heard firsthand that the single largest obstacle to maintaining employment for parents, particularly mothers, is access to reliable, safe and nurturing child care that hard working families can afford,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said when the Child Care Workgroup report was released in December.
“The Assembly Majority is committed to changing this reality through the creation of a system that promotes paid family leave, increased funding for child care subsidies and programs to improve the quality of care available," Silver said.