Protecting NY’s families

NY families

The Senate Democratic Conference’s policy group has introduced a new set of initiatives to help New York families during the early childhood period, saving the state more than $2 billion a year, they say.

The proposed initiatives include a strong paid family leave program, increased access to childcare, assistance for New York’s working parents and caregivers, and support for the growth and development of all New York children.

According to a white paper prepared by the Senate Democrats, these initiatives will save New York taxpayers $2 billion annually through the return on their investment.  The return on investment for the specific programs is estimated at between $4 and $13 for every $1 invested by the state.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates an overall return on investment for early childhood programs at $8.60 for every dollar invested.

There are also future savings, including increased earnings for children when they join the workforce; increased workforce participation and earnings of parents; lowered long-term involvement of children in the criminal justice system and incarceration costs; reduced need for future special and remedial education services, and improved health outcomes for participating children and new mothers.

The paid family bill (S.3004-a/A3870-a), which passed in the Assembly last week, is a part of these initiatives. The paid leave program would guarantee coverage to all employees, a minimum paid leave of twelve weeks, full job protection and a minimum of two-thirds wage replacement.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Joseph Addabbo, D-Ozone Park, and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, D-Queens.

The “Childcare Advance” program is another initiative that would allow families to defer up to $2,000 of their state taxes each year while young children are in childcare. The Senate Democrats are also requesting additional subsidies to help pay for childcare for working families.

Nearly one in four children under the age of five in New York live in poverty, so an opportunity gap can begin to develop at, or even before, birth. “These bills are not political and not partisan; they are good initiatives to help children during these vital years,” said Senate Minority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers. Workers’ rights are another area that affect the overall family life of New Yorkers.

For example, Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat, hopes to change the laws governing on-call scheduling. Currently, employers are allowed to call in workers on relatively short notice. The senator said giving employees less than 24-hours notice can seriously affect a family, because this forces them to find child care at the last minute, making the practice impractical and inconsiderate.

 “We have to start treating

workers with respect,”

Hoylman said.

The Senate Democratic Policy group also raised the issue of maternal depression, and the consequences this can have on a family. They say the mental health resources available in New York are inadequate and ineffective to treat maternal depression and the stigma associated with depression often discourages mothers and pregnant women from seeking help.

Sen. Roxanne Persaud, a Brooklyn Democrat, is calling for a public, easily accessible, updated and accurate list consisting of referrals for appropriate treatment, peer support, greater allocation of community resources and support from nonprofit organizations.

Another initiative is to build a new New York State Office of Early Childhood.  Those in favor say that this is necessary because there is currently no place in the state for universal family support.

“If we’re not taking care of our families, then we are falling short as lawmakers,” Persaud said.

Kate Breslin, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, argues that these proposed initiatives are aligned with those of economists and medical professionals.

“It is imperative that we invest in our youngest children and their families-with affordable and high quality child care; workplace policies that support caregiving; screening and treatment for maternal depression; and maternal, infant and early childhood visiting-long before children enter school,” Breslin said.