Most Connecticut residents have seen less money in their paychecks in 2021. That’s because it’s been going into the state paid family leave trust. Wednesday was the first day the program was open for applications.
Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont held a press conference outside Claire’s Corner Copia to promote the opening of the program.
“It’s under budget, it’s ahead of schedule and that doesn’t always happen in government,” Lamont said.
Lamont announced that the program, which took two years to build, is now accepting applications for up to 12 weeks of paid leave. The program is run by the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority.
“I love it because it’s important for Connecticut and employers as well. I want to be the most family-friendly state in the country,” Lamont said.
Not everyone agreed. It took advocates half a decade to make paid Family and Medical Leave in Connecticut a reality.
“This program had some naysayers, but it’s launching on-time, and under budget and it currently has 123,735 registered businesses with over $300 million in contributions,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.
House Republican Leader Vincent Candelora says the fear is the claims for benefits will exceed the amount of money paid into the fund.
“it’s premature to embark on a victory lap before the anticipated ‘onslaught’ of applications described recently by the chief executive officer or before a single claim is even paid out,” Candelora said Wednesday. .
As of noon nearly 500 people had called and filed 183 claims.
“There are five ways to apply. They are online, by phone, by fax, by email and by u.S. Mail because the one thing we wanted to do is make sure that everyone who is paying for it had an accessible way to apply for their benefits,” Andrea Barton Reeves, executive director of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority said.
Connecticut is only the eighth state in the nation to enact a paid family and medical leave program.
Workers who have been contributing a half percent of their paycheck to the fund for the past year can access the money for 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, a family member with a serious health condition, their own medical condition, exigency arising out of a family member being on active duty, or serving as an organ or bone-marrow donor.
“This is a blessing. This is a wonderful day for children, this is a wonderful day for families, this is a wonderful day for America,” Claire Criscuolo of Claire’s Corner Copia said.
Criscuolo said she no longer has to worry about managing her own paid leave system because state is now doing it through a payroll deduction.
“Regular businesses like me try to do the right thing. It’s difficult to pay people for staying home when they need to. We’ve done it and it’s been really hard,” Criscuolo said.
Barton Reeves said once someone applies they will get a decision in five days after they submit all their documentation. She said it can take up to 30 days for people to gather the documentation.
Their employer will be required to fill out a verification form, which is part of the welcome packet.
Also the employees can apply directly to the authority for the benefits, but they need to tell their employer about the leave.
“What we don’t want is people to come directly to the paid leave authority, take leave and they’d be missing from work and their employers wondering where they are,” Barton Reeves said.
Applying for benefits is easy.
“There are five ways to apply. They are online, by phone, by fax, by email and by U.S. mail because the one thing we wanted to do is make sure that everyone who is paying for it had an accessible way to apply for their benefits,” Barton Reeves said.
The website is at ctpaidleave.org and the toll-free application hotline is 877-499-8606.