COLORADO — Employers are now able to register for Colorado's new Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program (FAMLI), giving employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year, and four additional weeks for those experiencing pregnancy or childbirth complications.
Colorado voters approved the program in 2020 by over 57%. The cost is covered by employees and their employers splitting the cost of 0.9% of the worker's wage. For someone making $60,000, around $5 is pulled out of their paycheck weekly and matched by their employer.
FAMLI compared to Colorado's current leave program
The state's current paid leave program (FMLA) is unpaid, job-protected leave. Employees are eligible if they have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours. Only businesses with 50 or more employees are eligible for coverage.
The new FAMLI program is paid leave offered to businesses of any size, including self-employed workers. Employees are eligible for the program if they have earned at least $2,500 in wages within the state over a period of a year.
Parents and small businesses hoping to find more relief under new program
Kiana Manzi was living in Pueblo when she was pregnant with her second child. She had been working her customer service call center job for less than 12 months, making her unable to qualify for the state's current family leave program. Manzi said she had to take a second job as a Door Dash driver while seven months pregnant to provide for her family.
"If we were like, short a couple of bucks, and I needed to go out and make $50 to pay whatever bill needed to get paid that day, I could go out and just make what I needed to make. So I did that until the day before she was born," Manzi said.
Eventually, she applied for short-term disability but said that check wasn't enough to pay a month's worth of rent. Two weeks after going into labor, she went back to driving with Door Dash, this time with a two-week-old baby in the backseat.
"I really didn't want my two-week-old out at all these restaurants and going to random people's houses. But it was at the point where like, that was literally my only option. I didn't have anything else that I could do, without having to pay for a babysitter also," Manzi said.
She said any paid leave during that time could have helped her family make ends meet.
"Just having the extra time to be able to take off of work and not have that financial stress would have made everything significantly easier because it would have just been one less thing to worry about," she said.
Small businesses, like Bell Brothers Brewing in downtown Colorado Springs, with five employees, can now register for coverage under FAMLI. Curtis Bell, one of the co-owners of the brewery, said he hopes the new program will change the mentality toward tipped workers and give them the same benefits as any other job.
"I know tipped employees typically don't get any kind of available resources. And so anything that can make us stand out as an employer and make the brewing community better, and make sure that our staff are the best in the industry is best for us," he said.
Employers are required to begin premium deductions on January 1, 2023. The FAMLI benefits will become available to workers starting in January 2024.
Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.