Committee on Labor Senator George D. Maziarz, Chair
Tuesday - June 5, 2007
The American Cancer Society, the nation’s leading patient support and advocacy organization, believes the time has come for New York to lift the financial threat that hangs over families who need time off to care for a loved one facing a serious illness. Cancer treatment is just one example where the support of a spouse, partner, parent or child plays a critical role in accessing health care services while keeping day-to-day family life on track.
Our patient support staff often here stories such as this one from Sarah R., stories which are painful to hear and, unfortunately all too common. .
"When my dad's liver cancer got worse, we had doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment - and then two serious procedures, each of which required multi-night hospital stays. I also had to start assisting my mother with her regular medical and other appointments, which my dad had become unable to do. I used approximately 10 weeks of unpaid family medical leave until my father's passing. I was lucky enough to have moved back home with my parents before all this started, so I didn't have to worry about meeting certain expenses - in fact, I don't see how I could have utilized the unpaid family leave if I had been living on my own."
Sarah's story wasn't done. She recounted how her mother got sick following her father's death - first hospitalized, then in rehab, then back home, followed by the same cycle all over again. Despite wanting to take care of her mother in a consistent fashion, Sarah had to go back to work, since she had already lost so much income. Since then, she's continued to care for her mother around the margins, setting up a system that doesn't satisfy anyone but keeps both Sarah and her mother going one day at a time.
While there is no single policy reform that would address all of the challenges working people like Sarah face when trying to be responsible to chronically-ill parents, there are some common-sense social insurance policies that we could put in place that would make things just a little bit easier.
The “Time to Care Act” is such a policy. Just as Social Security is a compact between generations to take care of one another, the Time to Care Act is a modest insurance benefit that would allow working people to care for their loved ones, such as a newborn child or an ailing parent, in times of extreme need without risking economic hardship. For less than 45 cents per worker per week, New York could give virtually every employee in this state up to 12 weeks of modestly paid "time to care.”
And what that really means is that every working person who has a sick parent, or who is expecting a new child, would have a little more economic security and a little more peace of mind.
We're not in the 1950s anymore. Today, a one-income family is a luxury few can afford. In 2006, sixty-six percent of mothers of young children worked outside the home and twenty percent of adults cared for an elderly relative. We need new solutions to address the needs of today's families, so that working people can meet their responsibilities both in the workplace and at home. The Time to Care Act is a needed step towards achieving that balance.
For further information contact: Michael Bopp, Director of Advocacy 518.449.5438x11