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With state voters' approval of paid family medical leave, will Colorado serve as model?

Ashley Panelli, associate state director for the group 9to5 Colorado, said all eyes are now on Colorado, and she hopes the message sent by voters will help pave the way for paid leave in other states.

DENVER -- Nearly 80% of Colorado workers do not have access to paid family and medical leave, but that's expected to change starting in January 2024.

After struggling for years to get state lawmakers to adopt legislation, proponents turned directly to voters, who in November approved Proposition 118 by a 15-point margin.

Ashley Panelli, associate state director for the group 9to5 Colorado, said all eyes are now on Colorado, and she hopes the message sent by voters will help pave the way for paid leave in other states.

"That this passed on the ballot can really embolden other states to do something similar, and put it on their ballots, and feel confident that the voters are going to support something like this," Panelli contended.

The Colorado Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act provides eligible workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year, to care for themselves or a family member with serious illness, to bond with a newborn or a child placed through adoption or foster care, and other qualifying absences.

Critics warned the measure would put an undue burden on small businesses, and would not generate enough money to pay claims.

Starting in January 2023, businesses and workers will start paying into what's essentially an insurance pool, to build up revenues before benefits become available in 2024.

Panelli said Colorado's model is the most affordable way to provide paid leave.

"When you actually talk about the numbers to workers and businesses, and do the math with them, they see for themselves that it isn't a financial burden; that it is absolutely worth the cost, considering what folks are getting in return," Panelli asserted.

Workers are projected to contribute an average of $3.83 per week to the pool. Businesses will contribute less than 1% of a worker's wages, and companies with fewer than ten workers are not required to contribute.

Eligible workers can receive up to a maximum of $1,100 dollars per week, or up to 90% of the state's average weekly wage.




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