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Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks at a rally for paid family leave in New York, Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York's paid leave program covered more than 8 million workers and over 125,000 workers used the benefit during its inaugural year, according to data released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Most of the workers who used paid leave in 2018 spent time with their new children. A report provided by Cuomo's office reveals that more than 86,500 workers — approximately 58,900 women and 26,600 men — used paid leave to bond with a new child after their adoption or birth. 

New Yorkers averaged 33 days of bonding leave, according to the report. 

Some workers — approximately 39,000 — used an average of 21 days of paid leave to care for a family member with a serious illness. Under state law, workers can take time off to tend to a spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, parent-in-law, stepparent, grandchild, grandparent or grandparent-in-law. 

Paid leave is also available to assist family members when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is deployed with the military. More than 150 workers took an average of 12 days to help when a family member served abroad. 

"We're excited to see the positive first-year results of New York's groundbreaking Paid Family Leave Law and the impact it has had on new parents and caregivers around the state, enabling them to have great financial stability and job security during these critical moments in life," said Donna Dolan, former executive director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition.

Overall, the program largely benefited low- and middle-income earners. Over 71,700 claims were filed by workers who earn up to $60,000 annually. 

In 2018, the first year of the program, workers could take up to eight weeks of paid leave and receive 50% of their weekly earnings. More than 8.5 million New Yorkers are covered by the paid leave program. 

"In the first year we are already seeing incredible results — tens of thousands of employees utilized this important benefit and millions more have access to job-protected, paid time off," Cuomo said in a statement. "This initial success demonstrates once again our commitment to not only enacting progressive policies, but also to achieving real long-term results." 

Beginning this year, the program expanded to allow workers to take up to 10 weeks of paid leave and receive 55% of their average weekly wages. In 2020, workers can use up to 10 weeks of paid leave and receive 60% of their weekly wages. 

Once the program is fully phased in, which will happen in 2021, employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave and receive 67% of their average weekly wages. The amount will be capped at 67% of the statewide average weekly wage. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.