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Last Year, Schumer Secured Nearly $1 Million for St. John’s Riverside Hospital Maternity Unit Upgrades – For Critical New Equipment & New Programs Focused On Black Maternal Health


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that he will bring Yonkers’s Cheryl Brannan, founder of Sister to Sister International and a maternal health advocate, as his guest to attend President Biden’s State of the Union address. Schumer worked hand-in-hand with Cheryl last year to deliver critical upgrades to Yonkers’s sole maternity unit, and helped create new programs to improve maternal health outcomes for Black women.

“I am thrilled to announce that Yonkers’s own Cheryl Brannan, an ardent advocate for maternal health, will be my guest to President Biden’s State of the Union address. Cheryl is a trailblazer and a leader for improving the lives of black women and girls across the Hudson Valley with her nonprofit Sister to Sister International. When Cheryl and the frontline workers at St. John’s Riverside raised alarms on the maternal health crisis I promised them I would not stop fighting until they got the funding needed to make critical renovations to the maternity ward to improve the care for the over 1,300 moms who come through the maternity unit every year. And I am proud to say a promise made is now a promise kept,” said Senator Schumer. “For far too long, Black women in New York and throughout the country have faced a disproportionate risk of complication, risk, and death during child birth, falling behind the rest of the developed world in maternal health. I can think of no better person than Cheryl Brannan to join me at the State of the Union – because she helped me tackle this issue in the Hudson Valley, and I continue to work with her to pass meaningful legislation to improve maternal health outcomes for all.”


Born in Yonkers, N. Y., Brannan is the founder of Sister to Sister International (STSI) a nonprofit established in 1994 that educates, advocates and uplifts Black women and girls in Westchester County and across the world. In 2019, Brannan led the effort for the creation of the first-ever research report entitled “Still I Rise: Status of Black Women and Girl’s in Westchester County,” which highlighted significant disparities in the birth outcomes for Black women compared to their white counterparts. The report found that Black women in the Hudson Valley were 2.3 times more likely to experience complications during birth.


Soon after the report in July 2022, Schumer stood at St. John’s Riverside Hospital with Brannan and health leaders to propose measures to fight the maternal health crisis locally in Yonkers and to address racial disparities in the maternal health outcomes more broadly. St. John’s Riverside Hospital is the only full maternity services provider in Yonkers, New York’s third largest city.  SJRH provides millions of dollars annually in uncompensated care each year and 67% of their maternity services are delivered to women on Medicaid or Medicaid-managed care. Schumer pledged to deliver funding to help provide critical upgrades to Yonkers’s sole maternity unit, and later that year after working with Cheryl he delivered on that promise.


Specifically, the nearly $1 million in federal funding Schumer-secured working with Cheryl will fund renovations to SJRH’s existing labor and delivery space to enhance and support focused and targeted care. The room itself will be renovated to reflect a space that is large enough for extended family and community support, including the support of other birthing professionals such as midwives and doulas. It will also incorporate state-of-the-art telehealth equipment to allow the families and community to be connected. The facility enhancement will also support SJRH’s current partnership with Sister-to-Sister International and its coalition members, including a team of local Black women experts in the field.


Schumer continues to work with advocates like Cheryl Brannan to pass meaningful legislation to support maternal health, child care, as well as protections for pregnant workers. In the most recent omnibus spending package Schumer successfully delivered much long-overdue legislation to improve maternal and childcare outcomes. These included:


·       Permanent option for 12-month postpartum coverage—The American Rescue Plan gave states the option to provide 12 months (rather than the required 60 days) of continuous postpartum Medicaid coverage, but the authority was only available for five years. Now, this coverage option is permanent. Extending postpartum coverage from two months to 12 ensures people get the care they need in the critical postpartum period. Currently, New York provides 60 days of postpartum coverage, but state leaders have promised to take up this expanded benefit this year. Making the option permanent now gives states like New York who have not yet adopted the option more financial incentive and certainty to do so swiftly.


·       Maternal mental health programs—The bill includes four new programs to address maternal mental health and substance use issues, including:

§  Grants to establish, improve, or maintain maternal mental health and substance use disorder programs for pregnant or postpartum women.

§  A national hotline to provide information and resources for pregnant and postpartum women at risk of, or affected by, maternal mental health and substance use disorders.

§  A task force to make recommendations to coordinate and improve federal activities related to maternal mental health conditions.

§  A residential treatment pilot program for pregnant and postpartum women.


·       Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Protections in the workplace:

o   Pregnant Workers Fairness Act: establishes that employers must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers (employees and job applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions). Pregnant workers cannot be denied employment opportunities, retaliated against for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or forced take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.

o   Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act (PUMP Act): requires employers to provide time and space for breastfeeding parents. The PUMP Act extends these rights to all breastfeeding employees for the first year of the baby’s life.


·       Extends and Enhances Funding for MIECHV: The omnibus deal extends the expiring Maternal Infant and Early Child Home Visitation Program (MIECHV) program another 5 years with an increase of $100M dollars annually and new opportunities for federal matching of state investments. State/territory-operated programs provide home visiting programs for people who are pregnant or have young children and live in higher-risk areas with fewer services to promote better maternal and child health outcomes. New York’s program serves nearly 7,800 New Yorkers in the Bronx, Dutchess, Erie, Kings, Monroe, Nassau, Onondaga, Queens and Schenectady Counties; over 75% of households served are described as low-income (HRSA)


·       $8 Billion For Child Care and Development Block Grant: An increase of $1.85 billion from FY22, and a 30% increase in funding for the program. This grant funding will help child care providers remain in operation, and ensure access to high quality and affordable child care for working families.