Oregon opens applications for new paid family leave program
Why it matters: Lack of paid family leave often forces workers to choose between paying the bills and caring for a loved one.
State of play: The program allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child, a seriously ill family member or their own health or personal safety. It will cover the entire paycheck of a minimum wage worker and scales down as income climbs.
- Oregon is now one of a dozen states where most workers will have this benefit regardless of employer.
- It's one of five that include "affinity" relationships in the definition of family.
How it works: Both employees and employers have been paying into the Paid Leave Oregon fund since the beginning of this year. Sept. 3 is the earliest that benefits can start.
- Companies with more than 25 employees contribute 0.4% of Oregon payroll, while employees contribute 0.6% of their paychecks. (On a salary of $70,000 a year, roughly Oregon's median household income, that's about $420.)
- Independent contractors, self-employed people and tribal governments can choose to participate. People working for the federal government in Oregon aren't eligible.
- You need to notify your employer 30 days in advance for planned leave and within 24 hours of an emergency. To apply for benefits, go here.
What they're saying: "I know this is going to level the playing field for lower-income and middle-income workers in Oregon, especially folks in specific industries where they've had no paid leave," Karen Madden Humelbaugh, Paid Leave Oregon director, told Axios.
- She also argues it's good for employers because trained workers won't have to quit when family needs come up.
By the numbers: Payroll contributions are expected to raise just over $800 million a year. Humelbaugh anticipates 12,000 people a month will apply for benefits, after an initial pent-up bump by families that welcomed new children in the past year — the allowed period for a child bonding claim.
- Weekly benefits will run from $540 to $1,523.63, depending on an employee's regular wage.
Of note: Over 3,000 Oregon employers don't have to participate because they already offer paid family leave.
- Such private plans must offer the exact same benefits and can't charge employees more than the state plan.
- Earlier this year, lawmakers aligned Oregon's programs so that workers can't take more than 16 weeks of combined leave a year — 18 in certain pregnancy-related complications — for the same underlying situation.
What we're watching: Washington started a similar program in 2020 and had to bump up payroll contributions this year after projections showed it would otherwise face a deficit.
- Oregon's program started with a higher overall payroll contribution and can only change that through legislative action, according to Humelbaugh.
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