HARTFORD, CT — The 15-member Paid Family Medical Leave Insurance Authority Board of Directors got to work Friday setting forth an ambitious schedule to create an executive search committee, hire an executive search firm and hire an executive director.
Department of Administrative Services Josh Geballe, who chairs the board, said he hopes to have a candidate selected by December so they can get started standing up the new quasi-public agency before Jan. 1.
“Typically it’s a three month process if things go well,” Geballe said.
The FMLA board gave preliminary approval to a job description for the executive director whose salary would be between $200,000 and $220,000. The board also approved the use of no more than $60,000 to hire an executive search firm.
Geballe said they are looking for someone with executive experience who can offer policy direction and manage the day-to-day operations of the authority, which will eventually pay out benefits to people who need to take medical leave for themselves or a loved one.
Signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Ned Lamont the FMLA program is targeted to begin in 2022 and will provide workers in Connecticut with access to benefits that will allow them to take time off work when they need to care for their own health, a newborn child, or a sick family member.
Unlike the Massachusetts program, businesses will be required to manage payroll withholdings starting in Jan. 2021. The authority will set the actual level of employee premium contributions, but the law caps it at 0.5 percent of a worker’s earnings.
Sarah Jane Glynn, a consultant and researcher, told the board that in simple terms the program will bring money in, decide who gets some of that money, and eventually give out that money.
Glynn said the collection of the money is pretty straight forward. She said it’s deciding who gets the money where a lot of discussion is going to happen and that starts with the application process.
She encouraged the board to think about making the application process mobile friendly and as easy as possible. She said Rhode Island does everything on paper and some of the other programs have been around so long the software code used to write the systems are now obsolete.
She said Connecticut and Oregon, which passed the legislation after Connecticut this summer, have an opportunity to create a system from scratch with technology that hopefully can be adapted over time.
She also suggested they figure out where they will be getting their data about wages. She said New Jersey’s system requires the last two pay stubs, which are not in any database, so it takes a lot of time to confirm salary information.
The information about salary is necessary when figuring out someone’s benefit amount.
The harder questions are about determining whether someone qualifies for paid leave.
Glynn said parental leave is pretty straightforward because it’s not easy to fake a birth. The harder ones will be temporary disability and family caregiving.
The misconception is that everyone who applies gets up to 12 weeks of leave, but the length of the medical leave is determined by the medical need. In order to certify that medical need there will need to be information shared by doctors with the state and employers.
“If you’re going to receive wage replacement you’re going to have to waive HIPAA,” Glynn said.
As far as the payment of the benefits is concerned, Glynn said other states with paid FMLA have contracted with banks and make the payment with direct deposit or pre-paid debt cards for people without bank accounts.
There’s also the educational component and making sure people know the program exists.
Molly Williamson, a board member appointed by Lamont, said aside from reaching out to business organizations the health community can be a good resource. She said New York leveraged 21 state agencies when it expanded its program.
Geballe suggested they contact people in Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island for information about how their programs work.
Fran Pastore, a board member appointed by Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, said there’s a lot of misconceptions about the program out there in the small business world.
At the same time there’s also a lot of concern about how employers should deliver this information to their employees, Pastore said.
“They don’t have the resources other companies have,” she added.
The board, which heard from an official at the Freedom of Information Commissioner and the ethics compliance officer with the Department of Administrative Services, plans to meet monthly and post its minutes and agendas on the Department of Administrative Services website. The quasi-public does not yet have a website of its own.