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

More than 16,300 Connecticut workers received benefits totaling over $81 million from the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority in the agency’s first six months of operation, according to its inaugural annual report released Thursday.

The state’s paid leave program was created by a 2019 law to allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for medical and family emergencies. The program, which is administered by Aflac insurance, began accepting applications in December. 

Since then, workers have submitted 44,127 applications, according to the authority’s report. The authority had reached a decision on 32,701 at the time of the report. It said 13,002 were denied while 19,699 were approved, leading to benefit payments to 16,300 at the time the report was completed, totaling $81,150,827.

The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority's user and financial data
The CT Paid Leave Authority’s first annual report offers some basic financial data, including $81.1 million was paid out in approved benefits; $517.9 million was received by the fund in contributions and its balance at the time of the report was $390.9 million. Credit: Screengrab / CT Paid Leave Authority

In a Thursday press release, Gov. Ned Lamont, who signed the bill establishing the program, said the numbers proved the need for a paid leave law in Connecticut. 

“The law goes a long way toward making our state one of the most family-friendly in the country. I am incredibly proud of the team at the Authority who stood up this agency on time and under budget during a global pandemic,” Lamont said. “Now Connecticut workers and their families can rest easy knowing they can take the time they need to recover from illness or care for a sick loved one while still being able to pay the bills.”

The report found that approved applicants received an average weekly benefit of around $562 and were approved for an average of about 6.8 weeks.

“Thanks to this program, people are no longer forced to choose between their own healing or putting food on their table, being a caregiver for their loved ones or paying the electric bill, and bonding with their newborn or buying diapers,” Andrea Barton Reeves, CEO of the authority, said.  

According to the report, women made twice as many claims under the program when compared to men and were almost twice as likely to take leave in order to care for a family member. While the majority of claims — around 8,600 — related to the sickness or injury of a worker, more than 5,600 new parents applied for benefits to bond with their infants and another 3,500 made claims related to pregnancy or childbirth. 

Last month, CTNewsJunkie reported on the struggles of two mothers to get their claims approved. 

At the time, the authority was facing a backlog due to a spike in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant. In most cases a COVID diagnosis does not meet the criteria to receive benefits but the surge in applications led to delays. As of earlier this month, the authority reported its staff had cleared the backlog

“This annual report reflects the ongoing work of so many individuals who bring support and hope to the people of Connecticut each day,” Barton Reeves said. “While we know there will continue to be challenges, we are proud of what we have accomplished and will continue building on our important work for the people of Connecticut.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect more clarity on the number of applicants for paid leave in the third paragraph, including how many applications the program received, how many were approved and denied, and how many received benefits.