Colorado Voters Approve Paid Family & Medical Leave Program
Should states adopt paid family & medical leave programs?
by The 2020 Causes Voter Center | 11.10.20
Colorado voters approved Proposition 118, which establishes a paid family and medical leave program in their state, by a 57.32% to 42.68% vote last week.
Proponents of Proposition 118, including nearly every Democrat in the state legislature, argued that it would ensure that Coloradans don’t have to choose between their jobs and taking care of sick family members or having children. Colorado Families First, which led the campaign in support of Proposition 118, said:
“Eighty percent of Coloradans don’t have access to paid family and medical leave. They can’t afford to take time off work to care for a newborn baby or a seriously ill loved one — something that’s needed now, more than ever. ... Currently, 2.6 million Coloradans would benefit from the program. ... Coloradans should not have to choose between paying their bills and taking care of their seriously ill family members or having a baby. Eight states, including Oregon, Washington, and Connecticut, have passed similar paid family and medical leave programs. These programs have had lower than expected costs, increased employee retention and have boosted morale.”
Colorado Families First estimates that 2.6 million Colorado residents could benefit from the establishment of a paid family leave program in the state.
Not Now Colorado, which led the campaign against Proposition 118, contended that it would increase payroll taxes for an uncertain outcome:
“[The initiative] is dishonest. To fund the program, proponents designate a 'payroll premium' as the source. The premium is actually a payroll tax deducted directly for the paychecks of hardworking Coloradans. ... A dual-income family making $110k per year will pay approximately $1,000 per year into this state-run program. This equates to a car payment or a few weeks of groceries for a family. Did anyone ask them if they could afford it? Colorado is in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and an economic recession that has been compared to the Great Depression. Is now the time to ask families who are just getting back to work to pay a payroll tax out of their wages for an unproven, state-run program that they may not ever use? Not Now, Colorado!"
Attempts to pass paid family leave in Colorado date back to 2014, but they previously failed in the legislature each time. This time, after legislative efforts failed yet again, paid family leave advocates decided to put the measure on the ballot instead. Colorado’s enactment of Proposition 118 marks the first time that voters in any state have been asked to decide on a paid leave law, and means that Colorado is now the ninth U.S. state to enact a paid family leave law.
What does Proposition 118 do?
Proposition 118 will entitle Colorado residents to 12 weeks of paid leave if they need to take care of a sick loved one, recover from an illness, or tend to a new child. Family members of active-duty military personnel and victims of domestic violence or sexual assault are also covered by Proposition 118. People who are pregnant, or who face childbirth complications, will be eligible for an additional four weeks of paid leave.
Colorado’s paid family leave program will be funded by a 0.9% payroll tax split between employers and employees.
Fees to pay for paid family leave in Colorado will take effect in 2023. After that, the paid family leave program will launch in 2024. When Proposition 118 takes full effect in 2024, workers will be eligible to receive up to 90% of their weekly pay (up to $1,100 per week) while on paid family leave.
(Image Credit: iStockphoto.com / pabst_ell)
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