Advocates rally at state Capitol for paid family and sick leave

Dozens of business owners, health care professionals and community members gathered in the Capitol in downtown Denver today to push for medical and family leave insurance in Colorado, a benefit they say is sorely lacking in the state.

A new bill, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Faith Winter of Westminster, establishes a Family and Medical Leave Insurance [FAMLI] program to provide partial wage-replacement benefits to workers who take time off due to their own or family member’s health conditions.

The U.S. is the only one of 41 high-income countries to not offer paid leave to new parents, and one of few nations worldwide to offer no guaranteed paid sick leave. Federal law does require U.S. employers to provide job-protected leave, but it is unpaid.

Advocates say that without sick and family leave insurance, too many women return to work just weeks after giving birth and too many families miss rent payments or struggle to make ends meet due to illnesses.

Only three states — California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — currently offer paid family and medical leave. New York will join them in 2018.

Colorado’s bill will be self-funded, collecting contributions from all Colorado employees to create a fund which will be used to pay benefits to eligible recipients of family and medical leave. Employees will pay premiums into the fund based on their total income, not to exceed .99 percent of their annual wages.

Premiums will not be considered state revenues under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, also known as TABOR.

Today’s rally was organized by the FAMLI coalition, a swatch of groups led by 9to5 Colorado which includes organizations like the Colorado Fiscal Institute, the Bell Policy Center, CO ALF-CIO and the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved.

The House Business Affairs and Labor Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Tuesday afternoon. 

Photo credit: Neha Mahajan, 9to5 Colorado