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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Protecting Working Families in New York State

Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor of the State Of New York; Quinn Rapp-Ellis, New York State Workers' Compensation Board; Natacha Carbajal-Evangelista, Assistant Secretary of Labor for New York State
New York Foreign Press Center
New York, NY
January 18, 2018




Date: 01/19/2018 Description: Kathy Hochul, Lieutenant Governor of the State Of New York - State Dept ImageMODERATOR: So, good day everyone. We’re very pleased to have the Honorable Kathy Hochul at the New York Foreign Press Center. Ms. Hochul is the lieutenant governor of the state of New York, she is the president of the New York State Senate, and chairs ten regional economic development councils and the New York State Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission. She also co-chairs the New York State Heroin and Opioid Abuse Task Force and community college councils.

Just a few housekeeping items before we start. Please take a moment to silence your cell phones. At the conclusion of the lieutenant governor’s remarks, we’ll open the floor to questions. And I’d also like to introduce, at the time, Quinn Rapp-Ellis of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board, and Natacha Carbajal – sorry – Evangelista, Assistant Secretary of Labor for New York State. So, with that, let me turn it over to the lieutenant governor. Welcome, thank you.

MS HOCHUL: Well, thank you very much, and I appreciate you coming out today. And I’m very proud to announce to the entire world that here in the state of New York, we are proud to have the most generous paid family leave program in our nation. And this is the result of our governor’s efforts to ensure that families have security. And many of us know that this is one of the struggles that our families face as they try to balance work and life and family, and we’ve decided that it’s important that we send a message, and hopefully lead the rest of our nation, ensuring that people have these rights.

And what I’m talking about is the right to be there at the beginning of life, when your child is born or newly adopted, or at the other end of life’s spectrum, at a time when perhaps you need to be there with your elderly parents and hold their hand in their final hours, as I was able to do with my mother, and do all of this without the fear of losing your position in your workplace or losing your much needed income.

And that is a statement of our priorities to respect families across our state, understand the pressure they’re under, and to come up with a program that is not just good for the families and individuals, but also very good for the employers, and we believe that gives our employers a competitive advantage when they’re trying to recruit employees. We believe that when people know that they have the ability to leave when their family requires it, their obligations require it, that they are more likely to want to work in an environment where that’s supported. And in the State of New York, that is supported, but it’s not supported by the employer’s pocket book; it is supported by a fund that is set up, where people are having a part of their income – a very small part – withdrawn every week into an insurance policy, so that money is there when they need it.

And so, this has just been unveiled in the recent week. It’s the first in the nation to have a generous program, starting at eight weeks up to twelve weeks by the year 2021. And this is for both full-time and part-time employees, depending on how long they’ve worked at a facility or location, and it’s going to ensure that they have at least 50 percent of their income, up to a state-wide cap based on an average – about $656 a week.

So, that’s the overview of what we’re doing here in the state of New York. There are three other states that have it. We believe that there should be catch-up – we are the most generous – but we also believe that this should be a federal policy. And unlike the federal government, which allows unpaid time, we believe that it’s asking the impossible for families to leave their jobs, take care of the family obligations, and not have any income coming in.

So, it’s important – statement, again – of our priorities here in the state of New York. It’s something I had a little personal experience with. I now have a 30-year-old son who is off to work on his own, thank god, but I recall, when I worked as an attorney for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan on Capitol Hill, and I was pregnant with him, and had to make that tough decision of whether or not I could stay home, or to continue my work. And at the time, there were not options like this. This was even before we had family medical leave, and so I’m very proud to see how we’ve evolved as a nation, but I think it should still should be a federal policy as well. But here in the state of New York, Governor Cuomo has ensured that, as in many cases, when it comes to our progressive values, New York has taken the lead. And I will also recognize that we’re behind many other countries. This is not something that we are proud of. There are many other countries, those represented by those of you here today, who’ve seen how important this is to provide this helping hand to families who want to continue working, but raising their children.

And so, we acknowledge that, we have some work to do, but when you’re trying to get policies through a divided government – republicans and democrats – and everyone has different priorities, I think this was a real record of accomplishment for our Governor to have this in our country today, so with that, I will entertain questions and any details – I have the experts here who can get into the weeds if that’s where you want to go, but again, it’s a new day here in the State of New York when it comes to people being able to raise their families, be there for their children, take them to a doctor’s appointment, take care of a sick spouse, to be there to help if your spouse is in the military and you need to step up while they’re serving our country, and again, be there for aging parents, to take them to doctor appointments or be there at their time of need, so we’re very excited about this.

MODERATOR: So, if you have a question, if you could state your name and media affiliation before asking your question, please go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Li from People’s Daily.

MS HOCHUL: Nice to see you, Mr. Li.

QUESTION: I wonder if you have the kind of policy to the unregistered immigrants, and are they a part of this policy or not? How do you solve this problem?

MS HOCHUL: If they’re working – if someone is working in a workplace in the State of New York, they are able to have part of their income withheld for this, and the money is there for them. We’re not asking questions about their status before we do this, this is someone who’s in the – is working in New York State. They can also be self-employed. This is available to self-employed individuals, and I believe that’s –

PARTICIPANT: Yep.

MS HOCHUL: An accurate statement –

PARTICIPANT: Yes.

MS HOCHUL: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Shilong Yang (ph) from Xinhua. Just to – surprised to know only four states in U.S. have such a plan, and there is a – Federal Government does not have such a plan either. Just when – what are the reasons, still? Is it lack of political will or it’s a lack of financing?

MS HOCHUL: I would say lack of political will, because we have found a way to do it in New York State without much expense to the employee whatsoever. We believe it’s very reasonable. If you make 27 thousand dollars a year as your income, it’s about 65 cents a week out of your paycheck to give you this assurance that you can be there with your family when necessary, so first of all, let’s start with the federal level. I believe it was under President Clinton when they initiated the first family medical leave program at all, but it’s unpaid, and we have evolved from that to, here in the State of New York, saying that people deserve to have an income. As with respect with the rest of the nation, I encourage them to look at New York. I think there’s been a fear that this would impose an additional burden on our employers, and here in the State of New York, we’re doing whatever we can to encourage employers to want to be here, and the ones that have made New York their home to thrive.

We’re not looking to put additional burdens on them, but we’ve found in some of the other cases, like California, Rhode Island, that have been out a little bit earlier but aren’t as generous as us – that they have found the opposite, that this has actually been a good selling point for employers to be able to offer their employees. So, I think those early examples are – the data is now being demonstrated that it does not hurt the employers, it does not increase their costs, and I think that will be – go a long way to convincing people who’ve used that as an objection on – as that it’s – actually can work, and that’s why we want New York and the rest of the world to know what we’re doing here, so that will hopefully inspire other states to say, “You know what, this should be a basic quality of life issue, a family matter like this.”

And again, the rest of the world has led in this area, many other states or countries are more generous, and we have some catchup to do. But I think the cost issue is not relevant. It’s not real. It’s made up. And so you just need the political will, and fortunately, here in the State of New York, we had a governor who had the political will, and I’m proud to work with him to make sure that this works out – is rolled out successfully, people know their rights. We have a lot of information being disseminated to employers all over – we did last year – so no one was caught off-guard by this change. And I believe it’s going to be embraced.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yeah, hi. Bukola Shonuga with Global Media. This is fantastic news, actually. I really commend the governor’s office for making this happen. So, now, to follow up on the question that one of my colleagues asked earlier about the immigrant community, even those who are documented that are working, they’re usually taken advantage of by their employers, especially the immigrant population. So are there any specific efforts on the grassroots level to – I mean, for those employers that are employers of two employees – let’s say between two to 10 employees, for instance, to let the employees know of this law that’s been passed and to make sure that they’re not taken advantage of?

The second follow-up question is: Is there a penalty in place for employers that do not abide by this?

MS HOCHUL: Well, first, to your first question, we are obligating employers to make sure employees are aware of this, and we have many vehicles to do this, and they are required to make sure their employees know. And it actually applies to someone who even has one employee. I mean, this applies to – it’s available for someone who’s self-employed. When you think about that, they’re able to have an insurance policy. I was self-employed for a little while when I was trying to raise my children, trying to figure out how to make ends meet. I understand the challenges. And it would be very nice to know that there was still some income coming in during that time.

So I think this is going to be important to them. And a lot of members of our immigrant community are starting their own businesses. They become entrepreneurs but it starts with just themselves or another family member. And so we will ensure that this is complied with, and if you want to speak to the enforcement and any penalties for people who have not complied – but similar to the disability insurance that all employers are required to have, they simply are going to their own insurance provider and asking a supplemental rider be put on that now covers family leave, paid leave.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah. And just to follow up on that, Governor, we are rolling out a very strong compliance effort first to make sure that companies and employers, even smaller employers, understand because paid family leave is different than the federal law that’s in place, which is FMLA, the Federal Medical Leave Act – Family Medical Leave Act, which does not apply to the smaller employers. So this is a change for small employers, but we’ve done a lot of outreach. We’re going to continue to try and help them comply, make sure they’re aware of all the resources that the state has, and then work towards enforcement.

QUESTION: And I think this is really a great policy for --

MODERATOR: Can you introduce yourself?

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. Penny Zhou from Epoch Times. Yeah, this is really a great policy for, like, employees, but some people might argue that, like, for some small business owners, they only have three or four people. Like, if two of them take, like, 12 week off, like, who is going to do – like, that might hurt the, like, small business owners. So how can they deal with that?

MS HOCHUL: We recognize this, and I’m someone who helped my mother start a small business, a flower shop. The truth is she didn’t like the flowers that were done for my brother’s wedding, so instead of just complaining, she decided she’s going to start her flower shop even though she had no experience whatsoever. But her daughter, the lawyer, would help her start this. So I understood what it was like to be an entrepreneur, someone who wanted to start a business. You start out with just yourself and your family and eventually you hire one, two, three employees. And when in a flower shop, if your designer is not there, you’re in trouble.

I understand that and so does the governor, but we have to work through this because at the end of the day, most people at some point in their life have the pressures of family and we have to acknowledge, as a civilized society and a civilized state, that we’re going to make sure that we respond to that without creating additional burdens for small businesses. So if someone is expecting a baby, there’s time to plan for that, or if someone – we have to help the small businesses be able to make sure this is successful because every individual should have the rights to be there when their family requires it. And I think it’s just something that other countries have adapted to, other employers have adapted to, and there’s no reason to think that our employers cannot do the same here in the State of New York.

QUESTION: Also – I’m sorry. So if people want to opt out of the program, like, do they have to meet, like, some certain, like, requirements to opt out? Or if they just don’t want to be in this program, can they just opt out?

MS HOCHUL: Well, it’s available to employers who are not currently providing this. There may be other companies, private sector companies who know that this is a recruitment tool. If they want to hire the best and the brightest, they may have even more generous plans than we offer and they may have full salary, they may have a longer term, so we’re not going to interfere with that. But we’re not allowing opt-outs here in the State of New York. This is a requirement similar to disability insurance. We – so there’s precedent for this already that we have a requirement that if someone’s injured on the job that there be an insurance policy to cover them. This is simply an additional insurance policy that’ll cover the individual’s wages during the time they’re not working.

QUESTION: I’m Sara Sundman. I work for HBL, a Finnish newspaper. As you said, a lot of countries have more generous plans. Is 12 weeks enough? And do you think there is – in the future, will this be extended?

MS HOCHUL: I think in this environment we’re in, we take steps as large as we can, and yes, we believe that more time would be more useful to our families in the State of New York. I agree with that. But you also have to realize that it was not an easy lift to get this over the finish line here in the state when we have a divided government, we have different political parties, different philosophies on where the obligations lie.

And so knowing that, I think that the governor deserves a lot of credit for getting a generous program, the most generous in the nation here in New York, but I’m really proud of the fact that so often, when New York State leads as the progressive leader in our nation, other states do eventually catch up. When they catch up, there’ll be a normalcy associated with this, and perhaps at that time we can then be looking at, okay, do we need to be better? There’s now an understanding how important this is. Businesses have not been hurt by this. Indeed, they’re prospering, as we’ve seen some early evidence coming out from other states.

And I think there may be an environment in the future to revisit this, and again, holding up other nations as models, saying it has not hurt their competitiveness. It’s something they’re able to offer so people struggling to make that work-life balance can be successful. I will not hold my breath anytime soon that there will be a national policy. There’s a lot of national policies that are being undone that were good for our country, we believe, at this time. But whether it’s climate change or other issues where the federal government is falling down and abrogating our responsibilities, the State of New York will step up, and this is one of those areas. We’re going to continue fighting for our families. We’re going to fight against tax increases that are coming out of the federal government. That’s another whole topic. But we believe that states like New York that are progressive and have been generous with their people have been under assault by the federal government in the tax code reform – if you can call it reform.

So we’ve got a lot on our plate, but this is one we want to see how it’s working out. We hope people will take advantage of it. And I believe for people thinking about what state they want to live in when they’re coming from other countries or anywhere else in the nation they want to move their business, I think they’ll find that this is an additional enticement to come to New York.

QUESTION: Hello.

STAFF: We have about five more minutes. I just want to clarify.

QUESTION: Hello. Leparmentier from Le Monde. Sorry if the question has been tell. How much people do you expect to take this leave? And what is your total budget for the year, for one year?

MS HOCHUL: Well, again, there’s not a budget required because this is not a fund of the state government. This is an insurance policy. This is similar to disability insurance where a private company will go in and sell the insurance to them, and we require them to do this. So the – it is funded by a point – 0.12 percent share of the income, the individual’s income, going into a pool.

QUESTION: So how much does it make?

MS HOCHUL: How much is set aside from that? I don’t know. Do we know how much is collected?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: No.

MS HOCHUL: Or will be collected, because we’re just starting.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right, we’re just starting.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It is .126 percent of an employee’s wage, up to .126 of the state-wide average weekly wage that’s deducted. So as the lieutenant governor pointed out before, somebody who’s making, like, 27-, $28,000 a year is going to be putting 65 cents into this insurance policy. And that insurance policy will then pay them a portion of their wages. So we don’t know necessarily the numbers that are going into the different insurance policies, but we do know what people should be getting in terms of their wages.

And in terms of people taking advantage of the benefit, what we – we still don’t have reporting. It’s been only live for two weeks. But we do know that there have been hundreds of applications filed with some of the insurance carriers so far.

MS HOCHUL: And we have some of the beneficiaries who are willing to speak to the media. People who’ve taken advantage of it have been featured in other news articles. The New York Times did a story of a young woman who’s trying to make the balance with her six-year-old and a newborn, and she was very happy because the pay – the parental leave is allowed up to – the first year of life she was able to take another five weeks of time off now in addition to what she had already.

And we’re also, again, we’re not calling it maternity leave for a reason. I mean, it’s family leave. We want to ensure that men share responsibly, fairly, and equally in the responsibilities of raising their families. And I believe that because it has not been the case, that that’s a reason why we have a wage gap for what women earn compared to men in our country. And we think that this will go a long way toward sharing that responsibility, so this is available to men when there’s a new baby at home too, or when a man has to take care of his mother and take her to the doctor appointment or visit her in the nursing home, or to take a sick child to the doctor’s office.

We want to change the whole culture that has existed before, which has been a barrier to women progressing in their careers and progressing in the income area, which has held them back. And indeed, at the end of a woman’s life, she makes – I forget the number now, but $500,000 less collectively overall than a man. And again, we think that this is going to be a new opportunity to change how families operate in our society.

QUESTION: On what you just said, so both parents are entitled to take the time off at the same time if they wish?

MS HOCHUL: Yes.

QUESTION: All right. So it’s also stated here that it’s a rider, so in other words, the employee has to buy an additional rider to be able to take this family leave. So do you have an idea how much that would cost the employee in terms of – as an insurance coverage? So you see, like --

MS HOCHUL: Right.

QUESTION: Do you understand my question?

MS HOCHUL: It is a percentage of the income.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right.

MS HOCHUL: .126 percent of their income. And what that equates to, we just mentioned as an example, 65 cents a week if you’re earning $27,000.

QUESTION: Towards that coverage?

MS HOCHUL: For that coverage. So that is what you’re paying into it. Similar to you paying part of your income into disability insurance. I mean, this is – there is precedent for this. This is why this is such a great program to do, because it’s not increasing the cost of the employer as other plans, other proposals were. So that’s why we have more support from the business community. But it also goes up to 50 percent of your income up to a state-wide cap, so it’s not an unlimited amount of money. And this is how we wanted to roll it out to, again, this compromise position to get support on both sides of the aisle in the assembly and the senate. We had to have these limitations, if you will.

But I believe under this governor, he’d always be looking to try to build the political support behind enhancing this. But I think this is a great starting point, and we’re really proud of it here in the State of New York. So --

MODERATOR: Thank you so much for your time today. What we’re going to do is – the governor – the lieutenant governor has been very generous with her time, and we’re going to excuse her and continue with Ms. Carbajal-Evangelista and Ms. Rapp-Ellis if you have further questions. So thank you.

MS HOCHUL: Thank you very much. Great questions. Appreciate it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS HOCHUL: Thank you. Bye-bye.

MODERATOR: Don’t be afraid. They are the experts and can answer everything too. (Laughter.) In fact, as we were talking about this program before we started, we were just talking about some of these aspects that seem to be a little misunderstood by a lot of the people, not least of which is this idea that it’s not – it’s a sort of unique system --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah.

MODERATOR: -- in terms of how you pay for the program. And maybe everyone understands that, but maybe you can just talk a minute about that sort of difference --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Sure.

MODERATOR: -- because that will help explain things, how unique New York is versus the other three states.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: In most of the other states, they have a state fund and the money goes from the employees’ paychecks to the state fund. In New York, what we’ve done is we’ve created a fully-privatized market where employers who already have these disability policies with insurance carriers now have to get a second policy, this paid family leave policy, which is normally in the form of a rider on their disability policy. It doesn’t have to be, but that is how it usually is.

So the employer is going to collect the money from the employee to pay for the entire cost of that policy. And then when the employee wants to take the leave, they’ve got to let the employer know, but they go – they get the money from the insurance carrier. If that helps.

QUESTION: The others states, which are the other states? Can you --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: New Jersey, California, and Rhode Island.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: And then also --

QUESTION: They already have this?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: They have paid family leave. It’s in a different form, but yes.

QUESTION: A public form?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yes.

QUESTION: But it’s not an insurance; it’s funded.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yes.

QUESTION: And how long is paid family leave in these states?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Do you have that?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, I do. So it’s 10 weeks in – sorry, so it’s six weeks in California, it’s six weeks in New Jersey, and then it’s only four weeks in Rhode Island.

QUESTION: California?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: California was six weeks. Yeah.

QUESTION: But in France – excuse me, in the United States, when you got a baby you have – how many days’ leave do you have, legally?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: None.

QUESTION: None?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Paid, none.

QUESTION: None? Okay. (Laughter.)

MS RAPP-ELLIS: But we’re --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: I know that that seems – that’s what we’re – why we’re here – (laughter) – because it seems crazy.

MODERATOR: Isn’t there a federal law that it’s 12 weeks unpaid, right?

QUESTION: You have under the Family Medical Leave Act, the FMLA, you have 12 – what’s that?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Right, so it’s up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave that you could take. And now what we’ve done is made it so that you have paid leave for that time. Yeah.

QUESTION: But how many people take the 12-week unpaid leave?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: I don’t – I don’t have the numbers on that.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: I don’t know, because that’s federal so I’m not sure that we have numbers on that. But I would think maybe people are using it, but probably not the full 12 weeks. I don’t know if everyone can afford to be out for 12 weeks without receiving any income.

But also, as you noted, FMLA only – does not cover everyone.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right. It’s for people who work for companies with 50 or more employees. So in New York State --

QUESTION: Excuse me. For 50 and more?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Five-zero.

QUESTION: Your insurance?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: No, the FMLA.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: No, the FMLA. The unpaid. The unpaid leave that currently exists across the country. So in New York State, for example, 96 percent of the people employed by the – in New York State are employed by employers of 50 or less. So it’s kind of --

QUESTION: So he thinks it does not exist?

QUESTION: So it’s a payroll deduction, right?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It is. It takes the form of a payroll deduction.

QUESTION: So one of the advantages to the employees, it lowers their income – I mean tax bracket as well because of the payroll deduction somewhat?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: I guess.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: I’m not sure.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: The maximum – it’s really not – it’s like --

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Very small.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It’s very small.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: The maximum that they – that it can be in a year is $85.56. That’s all it can cost. That’s for – even if you make $5 million a year, it’s $85.56.

QUESTION: Per month?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: 85 – yeah, that --

MS RAPP-ELLIS: For the whole year.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: -- that you pay --

QUESTION: For the full year.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: The whole year. And that would be for someone who’s making --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: -- more than $65,000 a year.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Exactly. More than – exactly, yeah.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: So it’s a percentage, right?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: So if you make less, you pay less.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It’s a percentage that you pay of your wages. It’s .126 percent, which is like – doesn’t mean anything to anyone, so that’s why we say 65 cents for someone making $28,000 a year.

QUESTION: I just have – I need some clarification on this as well.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yes.

QUESTION: Fifty percent average weekly wage. What is the difference between the 50 percent average weekly rate – weekly wage and the 50 percent New York weekly wage?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Sure. So New York State’s average weekly wage – okay, it is super complicated too but – I’m not even going to get there. It’s set by the Department of Labor a year ahead, whatever. For 2018 New York State’s average weekly wage is 1,000 – right?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, 1305 --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It’s the 13 – 13 – $1,305.92. Okay, that’s the average. So if I make five – I don’t, I don’t, but if I were to make $5,000, right, I still am capped at the 1305.

QUESTION: Oh, I see.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right? That’s the – that’s the cap. That’s how it works. I hope that makes sense.

I would encourage all of you guys to – if you need more information, our website has tons of information and it is translated into all languages. We also have toolkits in many foreign languages, if that’s helpful, and we’ve – we’ve tried to use best practices in terms of translating the term “paid family leave” into other languages because I – it takes different forms in other – in other countries, so – but it’s ny.gov/paidfamilyleave. You guys might have that already from the press release.

QUESTION: You mentioned the – where they can take the leave.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yes. And a few have – a few of you all have brought up the issue about immigration or citizenship. I just want to be clear the benefit is available regardless of immigration or citizenship status. And the other note is when the worker takes the benefit, they can take it anywhere, anywhere in the world. So if they have a sick family member in any other country, any other province, whatever, anywhere, they can travel to that place to care for their sick family member. And so I just wanted to make sure you guys knew that.

QUESTION: But sorry, the thing with that, if their son isn’t documented, they’re not going to be working on the books anyway, so they’re not entitled to this, right? You know what I mean? I mean --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right. Probably.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Typically.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) change their jobs, like are – the money going to be, like, referred to the next employer or --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: So you mean like somebody changes a job in the middle of the year?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: You want to take that one?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, so it’s really by employer that you’re paying in, and it’s just like any other insurance product where, even if maybe you don’t use it, you don’t get your money back; you’re just kind of paying to be covered. And so if you were paying in with one employer and then you switched jobs and now you’re with a new employer, you would continue paying in but now it would be with the new employer, and you wouldn’t get anything back from the old employer because you were – you were being covered with that employer and now you’re being covered with your new employer.

QUESTION: So that money, you’re just like going to the employer, basically.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Not – right. But not to the employer. It goes to the insurance. So what you’re – what’s getting out of your paycheck is going to pay the insurance premium. So the employer’s not taking any money for themselves from the employees. I want to make sure that that’s clear. They’re taking – even though it’s a payroll deduction, they’re using that money to pay the insurance carrier. Yeah.

QUESTION: And do you have a guarantee that your employer does not fire you or sack you at the end?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yes. Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you guarantee this?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: There – the law. I mean, the law has specific provisions for – against discrimination or retaliation for anyone who takes paid family leave or even asks about it. So you could ask your employer about it and get fired, and you have a way to get some justice through the Workers Compensation Board.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, and I can talk about that a little bit. So the way it would work is if someone felt like they were discriminated against, we have a whole process. They would go to their employer. Let’s say they lost their job because they took paid family leave. They would go to their employer and formally ask them to reinstate them, say you lost my – I lost my job, I was supposed to still have it. If the employer didn’t reinstate them, then they could file a complaint with the Workers Compensation Board, and then that’ll go to a hearing. And so we’ll handle all of those complaints.

QUESTION: Even in the case of like (inaudible)? Let’s say I take the leave, paid leave. When I come back they move me in another department or they try to --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yep. Nope. Not allowed.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: The same situation.

QUESTION: Same situation?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah. Yep.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah. You are guaranteed --

QUESTION: I’m guaranteed --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: -- your job or a similar one, right?

QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible) behavior from the employee

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Right.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yep. And we have a hotline that also – any – any complaints can come in via the hotline, and that is also served with foreign languages as well.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for community conversations on this subject, like forums in communities, everybody needs to know about this?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Oh, we’ve been – yep. We’ve been doing a really robust outreach. Quinn’s been and I have both been on television and every corner of the state on webcasts wherever possible to talk about – and with borough presidents, in chambers of commerce, we’ve been doing a full, robust outreach campaign with – through the governor’s office. So – but we welcome, of course, the opportunity to attend, to come and talk with you, if it’s helpful, to any of you or any – any of the communities that you serve. And I have business cards for you all. As we like – we want to get the word out and we want to make sure that people know that they are – they’re paying into this benefit. They should be able to take this benefit. It’s there for that reason. And like the lieutenant governor said, we really want to make sure that the conversation around paid family and family leave changes.

QUESTION: What are some of the biggest misconceptions you’ve heard in the first couple of weeks that you would like to make sure are changed?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: I will – I’m going to answer your question, but I’m going to take it from the positive angle. I want to make sure that everyone understands that small – that we’re here to make sure that small businesses have all of the resources that they need to implement this. We have several resources up on the website. Like I said, we’re happy to come and speak at different forums or anywhere possible. I also want to make sure that people understand that this is, for most people, a sick family member or birth of a child. Like, these are – or fostering or adoption or even temporary custody of a child, right, your – you have a family member who is in a difficult situation and you take care of their child for – fill in the blank. This is available to you, and for small businesses, before this law, they really didn’t have a way to deal with that. This gives them a structure and a way for them not to have to pay for it too, right? This – it’s employee-funded. And those are the biggest misconceptions and most important points, I think, that we want people to understand.

QUESTION: Can a wife borrow some of the paid leaves from the husband to enlarge the maternal leave or --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: No, it is eight weeks – it’s capped at eight weeks per employee. But I will say that it can be combined with other forms of leave, such as temporary disability. So it’s eight weeks of paid family, at this pay, but you can – you could arguably combine it with – is it six weeks? I think up to --

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, usually six to eight weeks of disability.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It’s usually six – six to eight weeks of temporary disability. So when a woman gives birth, sometimes they qualify for eight – up to eight weeks of temporary disability. That would be in addition to the eight weeks of paid family. So you’ve got – you could be up to 16 weeks, right?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yup.

QUESTION: So I don’t want to be the only one to ask a question, but --

MS RAPP-ELLIS: No, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- someone said something earlier about so if that person provides a particular service to the employer and she now has to take combined paid and unpaid leave, how would the employer – how would they feel about that? I mean, is it something that – I mean, I’m sure there’s no law that stipulates that they have to allow – I mean, the paid leave is by law, and it’s, like you said, maximum 12 weeks. So they can’t combine the other without (inaudible) the employee’s position. Do you understand what I’m trying to say?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: So one of the – I think I’m hearing two questions. One is, like, the impact on small employers and how do they deal with they have one person who knows how to – what are the plans, properly? What happens when that person is out? And then your other question seems to be the combination of paid family with FMLA?

QUESTION: Correct.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right? Okay. I’m going to let you do the FMLA one, but on the small business front, again, one, in California and New Jersey and Rhode Island, when – they’ve had their paid leave for some time. When the small businesses complained or people thought that they were – the world was going to end because of this, it ended up being that it was not a negative impact, that there wasn’t really as much of a shock. Again, these are things that happen, right? People still – people are going to keep getting sick, whether they’re at a small business, or have sick family members. So it’s a reality that I think this helps. It’s a structured way to deal with it.

The other thing I would say is, again, we have resources to help small businesses. I would, again, encourage small businesses and one of the things we’ve been doing is trying to reach out to small businesses, small business organizations and such, to make sure that they have the information on what tools already exist in the state to help small businesses deal with situations like this. So that’s one.

On the FMLA piece, I’m going to pass it to Quinn.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, and so for that, I know that there could be some concern from employers that these employees are going to be tacking all these benefits, but something that we’ve done in the law is that if the event qualifies for both the federal FMLA and for paid family leave, then the employer can have them run at the same time. And so that way the employee is not taking the 12 weeks of paid family leave and then, on top of it, taking the 12 weeks of FMLA. And so they’ll run at the same time, and so that helps relieve employers a little bit.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: So it’ll be a maximum of 12 weeks that they would be out.

QUESTION: I see.

QUESTION: Do you have an assessment of how many family leaves there will be for birth and for taking care of elderly? Do you have an idea, how is it split?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah, it’s – I will say that in the informal information that we’ve gotten so far – we hope to have very formal data going forward, but in the informal information we’ve gotten so far, much more of the leave is being taken for parents, new parents.

QUESTION: Much more --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yes, yes. Much more for new parents than for sick family. I – and I think that that’s in part because it’s – people relate paid family with parental, maternity-type of leave, and it’s the sick part, the caring for a sick family member, that is new – newer. So we’re hoping to change the understanding.

QUESTION: Do you know of the gender gap, is it mainly women, or do you expect --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah, we --

QUESTION: Because that’s a big discussion in a lot of Scandinavian countries, how it’s divided between – well, so dads usually don’t stay home as much, and that’s probably --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, yeah.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Well, yeah. I mean, that’s part of the data that we’re collecting, so we don’t have that yet, but definitely will have that data soon. And like the lieutenant governor said, part of the conversation that we’re having and the outreach that we’re doing is to make sure that, like, dad groups, for example, understand that this applies to them as well, equally and fully, not only as dads but as caretakers. And one of the partners that we’ve worked with a lot is AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, to do outreach so that caretakers understand, especially people in that, like, sandwich generation that are potentially taking care of their children but also their parents, that this is for them as well.

QUESTION: I think it would also encourage men – I mean dads to take off time as well --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- if they know that it can pay for them, it’s the law --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yeah, so there’s a sentence in the press release that’s kind of bugging me. So it says the program is mandatory for nearly all private companies. So it’s not for all companies. I’m just wondering what’s the exemptions or, like, written in the law something.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Who’s exempt?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: For private employers?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Yeah.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: So I think – does it say nearly all private employers?

QUESTION: Yeah, and the public employers may opt into the program.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, and so I think maybe it could be touching on, like, self-employed persons who are considered private employers but they’re not required to have it…

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, and so I think maybe it could be touching on, like, self-employed persons who are considered private employers but they’re not required to have it, so they can opt in. So that’s one of the exceptions. Not-for-profits, they are covered, so they are considered to be employers who have to have it, but some of their employees aren’t necessarily required to be covered. So I think that’s why we just want to say – but for employers, it is most employers, but really the --

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Isn’t it also, like, churches and, like – or the --

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Well, they’re required to have it, but some employees don’t have to be covered, so --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Yeah, so that’s what it’s touching on.

QUESTION: So, like, the employees can choose not to pay that deduction?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Deduction, right.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Right, so anyone who’s not required to be covered can always opt in and choose to be covered under the law and to have this benefit.

QUESTION: So how do we get clarity on that demographic that don’t have to be covered?

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Right, it’s very small.

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Very small, yeah.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: And it includes – and religious – I think it’s – right, for religious --

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Right, like clergy are required to be covered --

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: Clergy don’t have to be – they do?

MS RAPP-ELLIS: They said that. They don’t – no, they don’t have to be covered, yeah. So it’s a very small, narrow group of people who are required to be covered.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: And like she said, self-employeds can opt in, but they are not required to be covered, so that’s why we said “nearly.”

MS RAPP-ELLIS: Right.

MS CARBAJAL-EVANGELISTA: It’s really like a very small piece.

MODERATOR: So are there any last questions?

QUESTION: That’s great.

MODERATOR: Well, with that, that concludes today’s briefing. I want to thank you both for coming and spending your time with us this morning – or actually, this afternoon. Today’s briefing was on the record and we will share the transcript as soon as it’s made available. And with that, thank you for attending.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.