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New York's Governor Vetoes Addition Of Bereavement Pay To Family Leave Program

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Governor Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have added bereavement leave to New York’s paid family leave law.

The legislation, which was sponsored by two Rochester area lawmakers, Republican State Senator Rich Funke, and former Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle (who is now a member of Congress), would have allowed workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the death of a family member.

Funke had a son who died in 2001, and Morelle lost a daughter to cancer in 2017.

In his veto message, Cuomo notes that the paid family leave program is funded by employees and he says as the bereavement bill is drafted, it would have an “immense” impact on low-wage workers.

The governor says he fully understands the spirit of the bill, but as drafted, he says  it raises numerous concerns including no specific limit on when the leave can be taken, meaning that unlike the leave granted after a birth, this bill could lead to claims for bereavement being made well beyond a year after a death.

Cuomo also says the proposed legislation would take effect for policies issued or renewed after January 1, 2020, but it does not mandate that a policy issued in mid-2019 must be modified to include bereavement, and he says that could lead to confusion when the benefit can be applied.

The governor says it “pains me to do so,” but feels he has to veto the bereavement bill. However, Cuomo says he is committed to working with the legislature in the coming session to resolve these concerns.

The legislation did face opposition from business groups include The Business Council of New York State which said that while it was empathetic with the intent of the legislation, it would authorize virtually unlimited leave for bereavement which the council said would have been difficult for employers, especially small bsuinesses.

Bob Duffy, the President and CEO of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce issued this statement:

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce thanks Governor Cuomo for his understanding of the burdens that adding bereavement leave to the paid family leave law would place upon business and for his leadership in vetoing the bill.  Rochester Chamber respects the bill's sponsors and their intent to ensure families have time to properly mourn the loss of loved ones.  However, members have shared with us that the benefits provided by the bereavement leave bill would have posed undue difficulties on business in both cost and staff productivity.  Governor Cuomo heard this from Rochester Chamber members as well as businesses across the state and took the appropriate action.

State Senator Rich Funke (R-Perinton), issued this statement in response to the veto:

"I'm disappointed the Governor chose to veto common sense legislation to provide additional family leave benefits to those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Prior to the election, there were serious negotiations about limiting the scope of the bill to the loss of a child and reducing the overall length of leave available for bereavement. Those talks were led by the Governor's office, and the Senate and Assembly both participated. Inexplicably, the Governor's office didn't pursue that course further once the election was over. In the coming session, I look forward to having productive discussions with all parties so we can provide grieving families the extra time they need to deal with the loss of a child while still being sensitive to the needs of employers."