Lawmakers push for legislation to extend paid family leave eligibility

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ALBANY, NY (WENY) — For almost a decade, Samantha Palermo has faced infertility. Until October 2021 when she got the most exciting news of her life, she was finally pregnant.

Eight months later, Palermo said one day she didn’t feel her baby boy moving. After going to the hospital, she heard the doctor say the words she said are every mother’s worst nightmare–“your baby doesn’t have a heartbeat.”

She went through labor for two days in the hospital and delivered her baby, Archer Lawrence, stillborn.

She went home devastated and brokenhearted. She called into work a few days later to start her paid family leave. She said they told her she was ineligible because she didn’t have a child to bond with.

“I hung up the phone and I kept saying to myself ‘this can’t be life, this can’t be my life.’ I was denied money to heal and pay my bills,” Palermo said.

Palermo went back to work just four weeks after giving birth. Her doctor suggested six to eight weeks to fully heal from her labor. But Palermo said she couldn’t afford it.

Currently in New York State, paid family leave is available to both birth parents of a newborn child for 12 weeks–not including stillbirth parents. And some lawmakers want to change that.

“It’s important that families, mothers and fathers, have the ability to grieve, to heal with dignity and respect after the loss of a stillborn child,” said Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy (D-63rd Senate District), a sponsor of the bill.

The re-introduced bill would amend worker’s compensation law to provide paid family leave following a stillbirth. It would include recovering after a stillbirth a qualification for family leave.

“The mother of a stillbirth child also needs the time to grieve the loss of her baby. These women deserve to be seen and to be included in the paid family leave law of our state,” said Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Assembly District 38).

The bill is currently on the floor calendar which means it is eligible for floor consideration where lawmakers could vote on it. Several lawmakers said they are committed to passing this legislation.


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