Credit: Audrey Popov via Shutterstock
Erin Choquette, head of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority Credit: Contributed

The new head of the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority wants to make sure applying for benefits is as easy as possible. 

Erin Choquette, who was named director of the authority last month, is not new to the agency. She was previously the authority’s general counsel and chief operating officer. And she plans on continuing the work of Andrea Barton Reeves, who stepped down following her nomination to Department of Social Services commissioner. 

The authority, which had taken in about $730 million as of the third quarter, has paid out about $249 million in benefits. The program is funded with a 0.5% payroll deduction. 

But Choquette said she wants to make sure everyone who qualifies is able to get their benefits quickly. That’s why the authority is rolling out a document dashboard. 

Choquette said the number one reason for denials is due to lack of paperwork needed to verify a claim. 

“From the user perspective it will be better,” Choquette said. 

The authority is receiving about 7,000 claims per month and eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for qualifying family or medical leave reasons. 

“We are trying to make sure people know we’re here to fix things,” she said. “We don’t want this to be difficult, we want this to be easy for people to use.” 

The authority is also looking at how to consolidate pregnancy and bonding claims since it’s the highest percentage of claims the authority receives. 

She said pregnancy and bonding are currently two separate claims and by combining them it will be less stressful for the families applying. The new system will give each combined claim one case manager and will be in place by March. 

And it makes sense that it’s not so easy to know exactly how to apply because people only use the system a couple times in their lives. Choaquette said they’re why they are partnering with hospital operation managers to make sure the paperwork issues are easy. 

The rule of thumb is if you know when you will be taking leave, submit your application no more than 30 days before the leave start date. If it’s an unplanned leave then submit your application as soon as possible. 

But employers beware, the authority will begin cracking down on compliance in May when they will start imposing penalties on any employer who didn’t register with the authority.  

Those penalties won’t be the responsibility of the employees, but the company, Choquette said. And the company won’t be able to use any of the contributions from the employees to pay the penalty. 

Employers have until April 30, 2023 to remit any overdue employee contributions to avoid interest and penalties.