Oregon indicators delay to long-sought paid family and medical depart program

The sun shines from the Pioneer on the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Ore., Saturday, June 29, 2019.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

In 2019, Oregon legislature passed one of the most generous laws in the country, granting paid vacation to workers who need time off to care for sick family members, bond with a new child, or recover from illness. However, with the deadlines for launching the program approaching, the state is now saying it cannot launch this policy as soon as planned.

A bill to be introduced at Oregon House would delay many facets of the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program by a year. These include the OED’s deadline for creating rules for the policy, which is currently due in September, and the date that employers and employees will begin paying to fund the program, which is currently set for January 2022.

Perhaps most notably, employees eligible for paid leave under the program will not be able to get it until September 2023 under the proposed change, eight months later than planned.

The employment office, which has already been hit by a pandemic that exposed its flawed system for distributing unemployment insurance payments, says it needs the margin.

“Given the impact of the pandemic over the past year and the responsibility of the entire agency to focus all of its efforts on managing unemployment insurance benefits for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians, it is clear that we need to adjust this timeline to successfully program the PFMLI “Reads an OED statement of the proposed change. “Despite these changes, the schedule for implementing the PFMLI program is still aggressive. We continue to strive to start this important program as quickly and successfully as possible. “

The department says a delay will bring a number of benefits, including the ability to “build a modernized technology platform” that will smoothly distribute the benefits, train employees, and establish comprehensive rules.

“The pandemic has shown us the importance of paid vacation and the importance of getting this program right for Oregonians right from the start,” the OED website said.

The bill that would ease the delay, House Bill 3398, is due to be introduced at the Oregon House on Tuesday. It was introduced at the request of the OED.

Oregon’s Program of Paid Family and Sickness Vacation Insurance, passed under the House Bill 2005 of 2019, was heralded as one of the most advanced such insurance policies in the country.

The program allows employees who have earned $ 1,000 or more in the previous year to qualify for up to 12 weeks of paid time off. For low-wage workers who earn up to 65% of the average weekly wage in the state, or about $ 711, the program covers their entire paychecks. Higher paid workers would receive a percentage of their wages, with benefits not exceeding 120% of the average state wage, currently exceeding payments to $ 1,312 per week.

The vacation program is funded by wage taxes of up to 1%, with 60% paid by employees and 40% paid by employers. These taxes, due to come into effect next January, would be delayed by a year under the bill.

The paid policy provides a significant boost to existing federal and state laws that guarantee workers the right to take time off because of illness or family leave, but do not offer wage compensation.

Andrea Piluso, executive director of Family Forward Oregon group, which helped shape Oregon’s plan, said Tuesday she understood the state’s reasons for the proposed delay. You and others are confident that extra time will result in a better program.

“I’m disappointed with the delay, but the good signs are that the labor department and various other people have redefined the importance of this program,” said Piluso. “Nothing has shown more how important paid family and sick leave is than last year. This could have been very helpful if it had existed for so many families in Oregon last year. “

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