(The Center Square) - Employees who work for the state of Colorado will be eligible for a paid family and medical leave program starting next year, Governor Jared Polis announced Monday.
Full-time employees who have worked for the state for at least a year will be eligible for up to two weeks of paid family or medical leave, which the governor's office said is funded through the Group Benefits Plan Reserve Fund that's accrued enough funds to cover the program for next year due to "decreased medical utilization due to the pandemic."
"The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the need for this type of program as many state employees are juggling the challenges of providing services to Coloradans, dealing with a life-altering event, and taking care of themselves and their families," said a letter notifying state employees from Polis and Hilary Glasgow, executive director of Colorado WINS, the union that represents 31,000 state employees.
"We know that 80 hours is not enough, it's far from that. You deserve more than that, but this is just the beginning and it provides hope for the future," the letter added.
The governor's office did not respond to an inquiry about the program's cost, but in a statement said it could "pursue resources" to fund the program with the legislature.
Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, who serves as Joint Budget Committee chair, said the governor and Colorado WINS consulted with the committee on the program.
"I am excited the state is able to provide this important benefit to our hardworking state employees for the next calendar year," he said. "I appreciate that the administration and Colorado WINS consulted with us on extending this benefit to Colorado state workers."
In November, Colorado voters approved a measure establishing a paid family and medical leave program that offers 12 weeks leave and is funded by a payroll tax, but the program won't fully take effect until 2024. The program could cost Colorado employers $1.34 billion in premiums in 2025, according to the Common Sense Institute.
The General Assembly in June passed the Colorado Partnership For Quality Jobs And Services Act, legislation backed by Colorado WINS that allows state workers to collectively bargain.