A record number of paid family leave claims were paid last year in New York since the program first began providing benefits in 2018, state officials on Tuesday announced. 

All told, 163,124 claims were paid in 2022, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul's office. 

"When I signed New York's paid family leave expansion into law, I reaffirmed our state's commitment to ensuring that workers have the protections they need to bond with their parents, children, and other loved ones," Hochul said. "Now, workers are responding - with rising enrollment and record-high utilization, particularly among fathers. Our nation-leading paid family leave program is a testament to our efforts to make New York the most worker-friendly state in the nation, and I will continue working closely with the Legislature to enact the policies and programs that support strong families." 

First approved by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, benefits under New York's paid family leave program has phased in over the last several years and participation has steadily increased as well. There was a decline in claims in 2020, which officials attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Workers are most likley to use the program to care for and bond with a new born child, adopted or fostered child, growing from 83,796 claims in 2018 to 117,851 last year. 

Paid family leave has also steadily expanded since 2016, when 13% of workers across the country had access to a program. Since the law took effect in New York, nearly 717,000 claims have been paid out in New York. 

"We know that expanded paid family leave helps close the gender pay gap, and allows workers the time they deserve to care for their children and other family members," said Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. "It is monumental that New Yorkers are taking advantage of this nation-leading program, and I hope this influences even more New Yorkers to use the program."