Signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont in 2019 the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program will begin collecting money from workers on Jan. 1, 2021. Workers won’t be able to access the benefits until 2022.
“I think it’s kind of unfair, especially for someone like me who doesn’t actually have a family. Especially since you can’t access the money until 2022,” Justin Van Hoorebeke of West Hartford said.
Not everyone sees it that way.
“I do think there’s a benefit to having the opportunity to have paid leave at a time when a family needs it. I work in health care and I see a lot of families who are under stressful situations with acute illness and having an opportunity to take time off to care for a loved one would be beneficial for future use,” Joy Russell of West Hartford said.
Andrea Barton Reeves, who is the head of the Paid Leave Authority, said they get three times as many questions about access to benefits than they do concerns about contributions.
“I don’t know if there’s any particularly ideal time to contribute because money is tight for many people across our state for a variety of reasons and I think COVID has brought into sharp relief the economic fragility of many of the people who live in our state,” Barton Reeves said.
But COVID-19 has also highlighted the need for paid leave.
“The other thing that is brought to the fore is the enormous need for a safety net and one of the ways we can do that is to continue to keep the program on track so come 2022 people will be able to get access to the paid leave benefits that they really need,” Barton Reeves said.
But not everyone agrees the timing is right.
“There’s always challenges when employees leave small businesses for a short period of time,” Bruce Adams of the Credit Union League of Connecticut said.
Adams said there’s an argument to be made to delay implementation for six months.
“This social safety net is a good thing to build, but now might not be the right time because every penny is pinched in everybody’s wallets,” Adams said.
What happens if so many residents make legitimate requests for up to 12 weeks of paid leave and it depletes the fund?
“The contribution rate can’t go above one half of one percent, so the way that solvency is managed from that perspective is the statute does allow us to lower the rate of benefits,” Barton Reeves said.
It will be up to the employer to determine whether leave is appropriate.
“Certainly a small auto shop, a gas station that has a mechanic or two working there, it will be a challenge for them,’ Joel Johnson of Johnson Brunetti said.
Joel Johnson, a financial planner from Johnson Burnetti said small employers might find it hard to temporarily replace workers who are out on leave.
“Because not only will they have to replace the employee, but they’ll have to replace the employee on a temporary basis and it might be tough in this day and age to actually find an employee,” Johnson said.