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Family, medical leave passes

By Joe Rubino

The Denver Post

Colorado voters on Tuesday adopted one of the most progressive family and medical leave programs in the country — one that would be run by the state and provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off in most cases.

With 82% of votes counted Tuesday night, Coloradans supported the creation of that new program by a margin of 57.1% to 42.9%.

Proposition 118 does what Democrats in the state legislature have failed to in recent years.

Funded through a 0.9% tax on an employee’s annual pay split evenly between the employee and employer, Prop 118 would create a social insurance program similar to those that already exist in states including New Jersey and California.

Workers caring for newborns, sick relatives or dealing with personal health emergencies could take up to 12 weeks off and be paid through the program. The maximum paid time off would be extended to 16 weeks for those dealing with childbirth or pregnancy complications.

The lowest-income workers would receive the most support under the graduated scale system, receiving up to 90% of their normal weekly income. People with higher-paying jobs could get as little as 37% of their weekly check.

Proposition 118 comes with an estimated $1.2 billion annual price tag. The costs are shared by workers at businesses that are subject to the system. A Coloradan making $52,000 a year would pay $234 in annual premiums, a total matched by their employer, the state’s Legislative Council says.

Proponents of the measure — including more than 200 business owners who have lent their voices to the pro Prop. 118 advocacy group Colorado Families First — say the cost is well worth it.

Denver resident Kimberly Mc-Carty, 49, felt voting for the program was the right thing to do.

“Twelve weeks is nothing to a person who is dying or sick and needs a family member to be with them,” she said after dropping her ballot off at the Swansea Recreation Center Tuesday night. “I think that’s the least we can do.”

Many of the state’s most prominent business advocacy groups are opposed to the measure.

The Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce recommended a no vote in its 2020 ballot guide, citing the challenging economic times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is a question as to how much the pandemic and the recession will impact the program if it passes. The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will not start collecting premiums until 2023. Claims payments wouldn’t start until a year later.

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