The New York City Council voted to pass the parental empowerment package – a series of bills designed to decrease the mortality and morbidity rates for women of color giving birth – thanks in no small part to the Brooklyn lawmakers who spearheaded and sponsored the bills.
The provisions of the bill will make childcare resources, such as access to lactation rooms and affordable baby supplies, more readily available to new mothers. City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights) spearheaded the package while Public Advocate Letitia James and Councilmembers Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst, Coney Island, Gravesend) Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) and Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) sponsored some of the bills.
“This package takes a comprehensive approach to truly empowering working parents across New York City, addressing significant issues such as lactation accommodations, maternal mortality and childcare for municipal workers,” said Cumbo. “This package reinforces the fact that by listening to and meeting the needs of mothers and all working parents, we are better able to support all of New York City’s families and communities.”
The package provides for several provisions that will require employers to provide lactation rooms for expecting mothers and raise the minimum standards of quality for said rooms.
“As we have become increasingly aware of the myriad benefits associated with breastfeeding, it is only appropriate that we do everything in our power to stick to our word,” said Cornegy. “And this means empowering moms to be able to safely and healthily breastfeed their children. Nursing mothers DESERVE to have access to a safe, clean, comfortable space to breastfeed or express breastmilk no matter where the responsibilities of life take them.”
The package also includes a bill that will require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to provide regular, detailed reports on maternal mortality. The bill, sponsored by Rosenthal, mandates annual and five-year mortality reports, and requires the reports to include recommendations for lowering the rates.
“Maternal mortality and morbidity, especially among black women, is a public health crisis in New York City – and it’s an acute symptom of a far broader problem, reflecting the underlying sexism and racism in our society,” said Rosenthal. “I’m proud to have sponsored these two bills in the package we are voting on today – they are critical steps towards supporting pregnant New Yorkers and improving health outcomes for our mothers and their babies.”
James’ legislation will provide for the establishment of a working group that would study the viability of providing discounted childcare services to city employees. After 12 months of study, the group would issue a report, after which they would oversee the creation of a one-year pilot project to construct a childcare center for children aged four and under.
“Child care should be a basic right for every family, but too many in New York City cannot afford the growing costs,” said James. “Providing on-site, subsidized child care for municipal workers will be a game changer for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. We must do all we can to support hardworking families and this program is a huge step towards doing that.”
Treyger’s bill will mandate the provision of diapers and baby wipes at domestic violence shelters and other temporary housing centers.
“Diapers and wipes are not luxury items; they are a critical and expensive every day necessity that some of our city’s families struggle to afford,” said Treyger. “This legislation is about showing basic decency, freeing some of our working families from shouldering a challenging economic burden and strengthening our city’s social safety net.”
Cumbo was ecstatic to see the bill pass, calling it a “major victory” for mothers in New York.