Andrea Barton Reeves, executive director of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority Credit: Christine Stuart photo

Six months into Connecticut’s paid medical and family leave program, Andrea Barton Reeves, executive director of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority, wanted to apologize for any delays families experienced. 

“Our main goal has been that Connecticut workers will have an opportunity to access their benefits as easily as possible and as quickly as possible and that has not been the experience for everyone,” Barton Reeves said Thursday during a virtual press conference. 

She said there was a huge spike in claims in January and February when the Omicron variant was hitting the state. 

COVID is not necessarily a covered condition, but every claim filed has to be addressed. 

“We had over 10,000 claims that were filed in one month for people who were seeking benefits for the coronavirus,” Barton Reeves said. “In and of itself the corona is not covered by the paid family and medical leave program, it’s actually not covered by other states paid family and medical leave program as well. This really wasn’t clear to people at the time.”  

Previously, Erin Choquette, general counsel for the Paid Leave Authority, has said. “It can’t just be that you’re resting and told to take fluids and you know chicken soup. You have to be receiving some sort of prescription or other treatment from the provider.”

Choquette said you have to be receiving medical treatment for it to be considered a serious illness. 

“Quarantine itself doesn’t count,” Choquette has said.

The combination of the huge spike in claims, mostly related to COVID, along with a new staff created a backlog, which has since been cleared. 

“All of the backlog, every single claim, that should have been adjudicated within a certain period of time has all been cleared,” Barton Reeves said. 

She said they are just dealing with claims within a 30 day window of a person seeking leave.

Scott Beeman of AFLAC, which helps administer the program, said with every large program like this there’s a learning curve. 

He said they were struggling to get through large volumes of claims, related to the Omicron variant. 

“We immediately mobilized additional resources,” Beeman said. 

He said the claims backlog was not acceptable to AFLAC either. 

Through June 4, more than $86 million has been paid out in claims. The authority has received more than 50,000 claims. The average claim paid out was about $560 per person, per week. 

An estimated 60% of residents have filed their claims online. 

Beeman said they need to send out more reminders about the documents needed to complete the claim in addition to employment verification. 

“I think Connecticut Paid Leave has had a very successful launch,” Beeman said.