The state has paid out more than $60 million in benefits through the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program, but two mothers we spoke to struggled to get approval.
“It should have been easy,” Lisa Lohmann, who gave birth to her son on Jan. 23, said.
But Lohmann’s first application was denied.
She remembers thinking to herself, “I had the baby there shouldn’t be an issue.”
She submitted more paperwork and was eventually approved on April 18 the last day of her leave. However, Lohmann’s husband, Erik, was denied three times. He finally received approval Wednesday.
Kristen Wilson who gave birth on Feb. 4 is already back to work.
“I have credit card companies calling me and the only thing I can tell them is I’m waiting for this payment. I should have been paid while I was on leave. I shouldn’t have to wait 10 days to hear an answer about something,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the computer system shows she was approved for leave on May 2, but she still hadn’t received her money as of Wednesday morning. By Wednesday afternoon she had been approved.
The Lohmann’s and Kristen Wilson have had money deducted from their paychecks since last January, like hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents and they should be able to access the benefits, but both women said the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority and their third-party vendor, AFLAC, seem overwhelmed.
Andrea Barton Reeves, executive director of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority, apologized for the delay and claims experience these families faced.
“We really want people to have a consistently good experience,” Barton Reeves said Wednesday.
She said the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority estimated it would receive 5,000 to 7,000 claims per month, but it did receive an unexpected number of cases between January and February as the Omicron variant was overtaking the state. The new team was expected to handle twice the volume almost overnight, which meant some of the customers didn’t get the experience they deserved.
She said common reasons for a delay in approval is the lack of paperwork needed to make the claim. She said they are working to educate consumers about what they need from the very start to cut down on those delays.
From the time the claim is fully submitted until approval on average is 10 days and then claims get paid out weekly.
She said the program exists so that residents don’t have to have that financial anxiety during an already stressful time in their lives.
“I’d like to take the time off to spend with my child now that I’m healed and everything is back to normal, but if I’m going to be pushing bills off again I can’t do that,” Wilson said.
Wilson said in theory the program is great, “but I don’t think they expected so many things at once and they didn’t hire enough people for it.”
Barton Reeves said they are increasing the amount of training they are doing and expanding the ability of the consumer care representatives so they can also make eligibility determinations.
For anyone struggling with a claim, Barton Reeves said the best way to get information about a claim is to use the “contact us” button on the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority home page and include your name and claim number. She said that’s the fastest way to get an issue resolved.