Statewide paid medical leave program secures funding in Colorado Senate

Gov. Polis expected to sign the bill into law
Supporters of the bill hope that all Coloradans benefit from this program.
Supporters of the bill hope that all Coloradans benefit from this program.(Pixabay)
Published: Apr. 29, 2022 at 3:26 PM MDT
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DENVER, Colo. (KKCO) - When Denver resident Brandy Harrison’s workplace did not provide paid medical or family leave to care for her grandmother after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she was faced with a difficult decision. “I was forced to decide between my family and my paycheck. We were forced to move my grandmother to a nursing home, where she died with strangers rather than with her family,” Harrison said.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, Colorado workers can rest assured that they will keep their jobs and financial stability in the event of medical emergency as long as they have worked a job for at least 180 days. Originally passed in 2020, the Colorado Senate passed a bill to finalize financing for the paid family and medical leave insurance program Friday morning.

Supporters of the bill hope that it will prevent Coloradans in Harrison’s situation from being forced to choose between caring for a family member or a paycheck. Kaitlin Altone, chair of Colorado’s Paid Leave Implementation Coalition, says that this is a substantial improvement for worker’s rights. “Finalizing the financing is a huge victory for Colorado workers, especially women of color who are more likely to work in jobs without paid family and medical leave,” Altone said. “A secure, publicly-run program will mean that families in our state will have the peace of mind that they can care for a seriously ill family member or a new child and still be able to stay financially afloat.”

Colorado already holds the title as the first state to establish a publicly-run family and medical leave program, and this bill would expand the already existing social safety nets Coloradans benefit from.

However, there are restrictions.

Employees are only eligible if they have earned a minimum of $2,500 and must use the leave for the birth of a child, the development of a serious health condition in themselves or a family member, or safe leave due to domestic violence. Employees will also have to accrue at least eight hours of family and medical leave insurance benefits.

The amount of paid leave is largely dependent on the individual’s situation compared to the state average. Essentially, the portion of the average weekly wage of an employee that is 50 percent or less than the state average will be reimbursed at a rate of 90 percent, and the amount that is above 50 percent will be reimbursed at a rate of 50 percent. Don’t worry, we’re going to break this down into simpler terms.

For this example, you made an average of $1,500 each week. We’ll use the Bureau of Labor Statistics wage average for 2020, which is $1,378. Half of $1,378 is $689, which would be reimbursed at 90 percent, making our first reimbursement $620.10. We then subtract $620.10 from the total weekly average, which equals $757.90. This amount is outside the threshold for maximum reimbursement, meaning that only half will be reimbursed, putting us at $378.95. Finally, we take our first reimbursement ($620.10) and add it to our second reimbursement ($378.95). Thus, the total amount you would be reimbursed for is $999.05 in this example.

The full bill can be viewed here.

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