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Paid Family-Leave Bill Faces CO Senate Panel

Colorado workers could be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a newborn child, if lawmakers approve SB 19-188. (Maxpixel)
Colorado workers could be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a newborn child, if lawmakers approve SB 19-188. (Maxpixel)
April 16, 2019

DENVER — A proposal making its way through the state Legislature would create a statewide insurance pool to allow nearly all workers to be with family when health issues arise.

Kathy White, deputy director at the Colorado Fiscal Institute, said the vast majority of Coloradans currently do not have access to paid family leave. That often means people have to make a choice between a job and spending time with a newborn baby or caring for a sick family member.

"It's a policy that ensures that the people who are least likely to have access to paid leave today are able to participate and they are able to get those benefits,” White said.

Nationally, just 13 percent of workers have access to paid family leave.

To pay for the policy, Senate Bill 188 says employers and workers would contribute less than 1 percent of payroll into a pool that could be tapped to pay qualified workers a portion of their weekly wage. People earning $50,000 a year would contribute roughly $3.68 a week.

Critics argue the costs could be too high for businesses operating on thin profit margins.

White said the proposal is supported by more than 100 organizations including small businesses and maternal and public health groups. She added that polling of business owners, sole proprietors, entrepreneurs and voters has shown broad support for the measure.

"These programs have operated in some states successfully for decades. So I think the time is just now,” she said. “We clearly know what the problem is, we clearly know what the solution is, and Senate Bill 188 is just the path to get us there."

White said states that have paid family leave have seen better health outcomes for mothers and children, better outcomes for aging family members needing care, and more secure long-term financial stability, especially for women. The measure is set to be heard Tuesday by the Senate's Appropriations Committee.

Disclosure: Colorado Fiscal Institute contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Census, Education, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO