Oregon desires to delay paid family and medical depart program | Work

SALEM – Oregon says it won’t be ready to provide paid family and sick leave benefits until the January 2023 deadline, and has asked lawmakers to postpone the rollout of the long-awaited state program.

A bill passed on Tuesday, May 4, on behalf of the Oregon Employment Department at Oregon House, would allow the state agency to enact rules for determining the program through September 2022, and the date when Employers must start paying into the program until January 2023 – delaying both deadlines by a full year.

If the bill is passed, Oregon workers would not see any benefits from the new program until September 2023, eight months after the program went into effect.

Both legislature advocates and the labor department said the coronavirus pandemic exposed the vital need for paid family vacation and medical leave.

However, Patty Jo Angelini, a spokeswoman for the labor department, said the schedule for launching the program is always ambitious and that the pandemic has forced the agency to turn its focus away from the program.

“As of December 2019, the Oregon Employment Department has taken important steps to build the program,” Angelini said in an email. “However, the impact of the pandemic over the past year, including the agency’s need to shift nearly all efforts to administer unemployment insurance benefits to hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, has made it clear that the timeline for the successful implementation of an equitable and accessible PFMLI program for the implementation would have to be adjusted. “

Oregon was the ninth state to commit to offering a paid family and medical leave program when lawmakers passed the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program in 2019. At the time, proponents touted the legislation as one of the most advanced paid family vacation schemes in the nation.

The law allows workers in Oregon who made at least $ 1,000 in the previous year to have up to 12 weeks of paid time off to connect with and care for new children, manage illness, family members with serious health problems to supervise or seek medical treatment in certain cases of domestic violence.

The state and federal government already offer many employees access to up to 12 weeks of unpaid family and sick leave, but Oregon’s new law offers generous paid benefits. By law, low-wage workers will receive all of their paychecks while on vacation. The benefits decrease with increasing income.

The program is financed by a wage tax of up to 1% on employers and employees.

Sandra McDonough, president and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry, which endorsed the 2019 legislation, said the implementation of the program should not be accelerated to meet an arbitrary deadline and urged lawmakers to stop the Department of Labor’s request for more time for the development of the program to be adopted.

“We appreciate the recognition of the Department of Labor’s challenges facing business and government over the past year,” McDonough said in an email. “By delaying the implementation of the paid family and sick leave program by a year, they are ensuring that this complex implementation process is properly carried out.”

Andrea Paluso, executive director of Family Forward Oregon, who helped draft the law, said she wasn’t surprised the state asked for more time to implement the program, given the strain on the labor department over the past year.

The employment office had to use almost all means to respond to a flood of new unemployment claims as a result of the pandemic. The agency’s old computer system was completely unable to respond early to the crisis, causing nearly 200,000 Oregonians to file unpaid claims for weeks or months over the past year.

While Paluso is disappointed that the agency is now asking to postpone the paid family and sick leave program, she hopes the extra time will allow the labor department to put in place a better and more effective program.

“Our government programs are under heavy strain right now, and there is an unprecedented need,” said Paluso. “But I am hopeful as the signs are that there is real commitment to this program and that it is committed to making it a success and taking the time to do it.”

Even if lawmakers hit the extended deadline, Angelini said it will still be an aggressive deadline for the labor administration.

She said the agency needs time to develop the policy, work with other government agencies to prepare for implementation, and build a modern technology platform to enable applications to be processed digitally.

“We are committed to ensuring that the program we have launched works fairly, inclusive and well,” said Angelini. “And that Oregonians have access to these much-needed benefits as soon as possible.”

Paluso said the pandemic had highlighted the vital need for paid family vacation and medical leave, as well as the consequences of delaying those benefits.

According to the Ministry of Labor, around 2.5 million women have left the workforce since the pandemic began, in many cases due to the increasing challenges in balancing work and family when looking after children or family members.

“Every day that we do not have this program, families run the risk of falling behind,” said Paluso, “losing their jobs, losing income because they do not have this basic financial and professional protection.”

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