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A new portal quietly opened Thursday in Colorado. By next year, every employer in the state is expected to visit it and register as part of the new paid-family leave law that provides up to 12 weeks of paid time-off for eligible workers in 2024.

But before any payouts are made, the program needs to be funded. Employee payroll deductions and employer contributions start Jan. 1 and are estimated to reach $1.3 billion by the end of 2023.

Christine Levi carries her daughter, Aaliyah, into the toddler’s home day care early one morning in 2019 in Denver. Levi resumed work the day she came home from the hospital after having Aaliyah because her employer at the time offered no paid leave. (Marvin Anani, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Paid family leave, which differs from the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (that’s unpaid), has been a controversial topic in Colorado for years. Colorado Democrats spent more than five years trying to pass legislation unsuccessfully. It took voters to approve Proposition 118 in 2020. And even after that, the new law faced legal opposition on a claim that it unlawfully added taxes. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the law earlier this year.

Today, the official Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, a.k.a. FAMLI, is up and running inside the state labor department. Tracy Marshall joined as division director in September 2021 and the team has grown to 50 employees.

“We’re really tasked with rolling out the statute just the way voters asked for it to be,” Marshall said. “Starting in 2024, this is going to cover pretty much all employers in Colorado with a very small number of carve-outs that were in the statute. All employees would be eligible for up to 12 weeks per year. This is an annual benefit. It’s not a once-in-a lifetime benefit.”

An estimated 2.7 million workers stand to benefit from state or private paid leave plans. And starting Jan. 1, roughly 216,000 employers in Colorado must do something about this, according to the Department of Labor and Employment estimate. 

Colorado’s paid-family leave program starts Jan. 1, 2023, with employers and workers paying into the program. Workers should see a line item fee in their pay stub while employers must administer the system and pay the 0.9% contribution to the state. Actual benefits of up to 12 weeks don’t start until 2024. (Provided by Colorado Department of Labor and Employment)

That includes all companies with 10 or more employees, and even those with their own family-leave plan (the state must approve existing coverage and charges a $500 administration fee). Businesses with fewer than 10 employees can also participate, as well as self-employed workers. All participants just need to contribute 0.9% of a worker’s salary to the fund.

“We already have 1,300 employers registered in the system. It was taking them an average of about under 15 minutes,” Marshall said. “The information they need (to input) is the company name, address and approximate headcount. And by approximate headcount I mean, is it less than 10 or greater?” 

During registration, employers also need to share their employer identification number. Those who register later in the year will still be on the hook for premiums going back to Jan. 1.

The price of FAMLI
Eligible Colorado workers can qualify for 12 weeks (up to 16 weeks if pregnancy or childbirth complications occur) of paid-family leave each year starting Jan. 1, 2024. Here’s an example of how the fees and payments can add up for a worker who earns $50,000 a year

$4.33 — Employee’s weekly payroll deduction, or $225.16 a year.
$4.33/$225.16 — Employer pays a matching amount or could choose to pay all.
$4,503.20 — For a staff of 10 who all earn $50,000 a year, this is the employer’s annual contribution. Half of this can be deducted from workers’ paychecks.
$750.88 — Weekly benefit for the worker on leave, starting in 2024. That’s about 80% of the worker’s regular pay. Benefits are based on wages. The maximum is $1,100 a week.
$500 — Fee for employers who seek state approval of private plans in order to opt out.

Calculate your own weekly payment or benefit using the online FAMLI calculator: cosun.co/paidfamilyleave

While many business groups opposed the law due to added costs to small businesses on top of existing fees, the progressive Good Business Colorado, which represents socially conscious businesses, not only supported it but worked to pass it, said Angelique R. Espinoza, its director of policy. 

“Our business owner members worked hard to help pass FAMLI because it will help small businesses retain employees and compete for talent,” Espinoza said in an email. “We are gratified that this much-needed program is finally launching.”

The program is structured much like the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. Neither are taxpayer funded. Instead, companies pay into the UI trust fund and workers apply to the state when they lose their job. The state’s labor department approves laid-off workers and pays them.

More on FAMLI
Worker eligibility: Has earned at least $2,500 within Colorado and offers 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a sick family member or a new child or help a family member prepare for military deployment or address the safety needs for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault. 
Employer expectations: Are responsible for deducting premiums from employee paychecks and paying the state monthly. When a worker is on leave, the employer must keep the job open and provide the same health benefits. The employer doesn’t pay wages during the leave.
Exclusions: Federal government employees are exempt. Local government workers and the self-employed can opt out. Companies with private coverage can opt out if their plans are

Colorado’s Family and Medical Leave Insurance program >> View

Similarly, FAMLI plans to set up a portal for workers next year so they can apply to the state directly for paid leave starting in 2024. While the premiums are deducted from their paychecks, workers would be paid by the state.

Employers don’t have to pay workers while they’re on leave, but they must continue offering the same health benefits and let them return to their old job after the leave ends.

Colorado’s rules take guidance from other states with similar laws. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states offer paid family and medical leave and four states, including Colorado, have enacted programs but not yet implemented them. 

“Every state is a little different in their approach,” Marshall said. “Colorado has a very robust definition of what is a covered family member. So people who are like family to you can be considered a family member. They don’t need to be blood or married relatives.” 

➔ Questions? The state labor department is hosting a webinar for employers and businesses on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 11 a.m. >> Register, Colorado’s FAMLI portal

➔ Hey employers: How much will you pay? Will the new FAMLI help your company retain workers? Share comments about the cost and benefits to your business by emailing tamara@coloradosun.com


What’s Working reader sentiment

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared the results from the latest reader polls. But just before Thanksgiving, I asked how your job was going. Results for this unscientific poll showed more positive than negative with 12.8% of 117 respondents saying they’re doing great. The majority of course are glad to be retired.

Still want to share your say? Take the survey: https://cosun.co/jobsecurity

One person who is retired lamented that they can’t afford things they used to enjoy, “Eating out amounts to what I would spend for a week’s worth of grocery staples. So much for the golden years!”

Several people mentioned it’s tough to get a job, even with a degree: “I find that employers only want to hire those with direct experience,” said another respondent, who plans to work a temporary job for the holidays.

A handful who recently got raises or new jobs added while it’s been good, there is a feeling that “the company has been tightening their belts in anticipation of a recession.” Another person mentioned she “got a big raise but at the cost of others being laid off. There’s too much work now on my plate for me to be able to succeed.”

Hey employers and employed Coloradans, are there still good jobs really out there? Share what’s going on at your company by taking this week’s poll:

Are there still good jobs in Colorado? Take the What’s Working survey at https://cosun.co/goodjobsCO

Other working bits

➔ 38 local Twitter workers quit: The tumult continues at Twitter, which gained a new owner and lost half its 7,500-person workforce last month. In a letter to the state’s labor department on Nov. 25, the social media company said an additional 38 employees resigned from the 3401 Bluff St. office in Boulder. They joined 87 workers laid off earlier in November, though the company said those terminations don’t start till Jan. 4, 2023. >> Read the letter

☀ READ MORE

  • LOUD layoffs: Large numbers of layoffs from single companies are replacing the “quiet quitting” trend, at least as documented by CNBC, which is calling the new trend “loud layoffs.” The loudest this week? DoorDash cut 1,250 corporate workers. >> CNBC, Layoffs.fyi
  • Employers are still hiring: The latest U.S. jobs report still shows employers are adding jobs. They created 263,000 in November, which is less than October but higher than historic norms, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report. Continued job growth seems to indicate the economy has rebalanced itself though a recession is not ruled out yet, economists told The Washington Post. The national  unemployment rate was unchanged at 3.7%. >> Washington Post
A hiring sign at a store for retail jobs at the Parks Mall in Lone Tree on Sept. 18. (Tamara Chuang, The Colorado Sun)

➔ Sun stories about Colorado’s economy that you may have missed:

➔ Asteroid mining firm picks Denver: Netherlands startup Karman+ picked Denver as its new home and plans to add 150 new jobs that will have an average salary of $110,620, according to the latest job-growth award by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. If Karman+, which is on a mission to mine near-Earth asteroids for energy and resources, reaches that goal within eight years, it’ll receive a $1.29 million job-growth tax credit. The company currently employs eight, though none are in Colorado. >> Karman+ jobs

➔ $85 million in workforce grants available: Opportunity Now Colorado is a new grant program funded through the state’s Office of Economic Development and International Trade. The goal is to connect more Coloradans to higher-skilled and higher-wage jobs. Grants are available to employers, organizations and others willing to work together to create better jobs and training programs. >> Apply

➔ Denver’s rent fund ending: One of the last programs in Colorado still offering federal money to pay rent is nearly depleted. Denver’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program will close to first-time applicants on Dec. 9 at 11:59 p.m. The program, which started during the pandemic, has paid out more than $130 million in rent assistance to 13,700 Denver households. The state’s own program stopped accepting new applicants on Nov. 15. >> Apply

➔ $9.3 million in free RTD rides: That’s how much RTD lost in fares when it offered free bus and transit service in the Denver area as part of the Zero Fare for Better Air program in August. In a report, the transit agency said ridership increased 32.4% from a year ago without much impact on operations. The lost revenues will be funded by the Colorado Energy Office through a grant made possible after state legislators passed Senate Bill 180 last spring. But not all expenses were covered. About $200,000 for a customer survey and other marketing expenses “will be borne by RTD exclusively,” according to the agency. Sun reporter Olivia Prentzel wrote about the results for RTD as well as other transit agencies statewide. >> Story, RTD report

➔ Charge it? Consumer credit-card debt grew by $38 billion, up 15% from a year ago in the third quarter, which was the highest annual increase in 20 years, according to the New York Federal Reserve. The rise isn’t terribly surprising, considering the 8% inflation during the period. But Fed economists pointed out that delinquency rates are rising, though not yet near what happened in the Great Recession. 


Thanks for reading another week. As always, share your two cents on how the economy is keeping you down or helping you up at cosun.co/heyww. ~ tamara 


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What’s Working is a Colorado Sun column about surviving in today’s economy. Email tamara@coloradosun.com with stories, tips or questions. Read the archive, ask a question at cosun.co/heyww and don’t miss the next one by signing up at coloradosun.com/getww

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Tamara Chuang

Tamara writes about businesses, technology and the local economy for The Colorado Sun. She also writes the "What's Working" column, available as a free newsletter at coloradosun.com/getww. Contact her at cosun.com/heyww,...