Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York signed a strong new paid family leave law, giving up to 12 weeks of paid time off to those who qualify.
The policy gives a maximum of 12 weeks off to new parents as well as people who need to care for a relative with a serious illness, and people who assume responsibilities of loved ones who are called to active military service.
The new law was part of New York's latest budget deal, which passed with bipartisan support.
"Cuomo was lukewarm on family leave just a year ago," Family Values @ Work Director Ellen Bravo told The Huffington Post. "But then he heard over and over that not only do we have an appetite but we are starving for it.”
In early 2016, Cuomo made a push for paid leave in a state address.
"Life is such a precious gift and I have kicked myself every day that I didn’t spend more time with my father," he said in the address.
"I could have cut days in half I could have spent more time with him. It was my mistake and a mistake I blame myself for every day. But there are many people in this state who do not have the choice. A parent is dying, a child is sick, they can’t take off of work."
Dina Bakst, co-founder of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, told CNN that Cuomo's paid leave bill is a "game changer."
"I think it's going to create tremendous momentum and fuel these state campaigns, and ultimately movement in Congress," Bakst said.
California is set to improve its paid leave program, and Rhode Island is said to be considering an increase for its paid family leave time, marking a shift in a longstanding movement towards nationwide acceptance of such benefits.
"The bar keeps going up," Bravo said. "The problem is that in the U.S. we’re so used to zero weeks, we forget what the rest of the world consider minimum. Even 12 weeks is just a beginning.”