If the city of Longmont’s employees want to participate in Colorado’s paid family and medical leave insurance program, they must do so on their own.

In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the Longmont City Council took staff’s recommendation to opt out of paying into the state-administered program that was estimated to cost the city approximately $425,462 next year alone.

“In the end, this actually gives employees more choice and autonomy over what they choose,” Councilmember Susie Hidalgo-Fahring said during Tuesday’s meeting.

The program allows eligible workers to receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave to take care of a newborn child or tend to a serious health condition — either their own or that of a family member — without running the risk of losing their jobs.

Colorado voters approved Proposition 118, which established the state’s forthcoming paid family and medical leave program, by about a half-million votes during the November 2020 election.

Local governments may decline to participate in the program, as can employers with nine or fewer employees and self-employed individuals.

“I think it makes a ton of sense for small businesses that don’t have the economies of scale that cities do,” Sandra Seader, Longmont assistant city manager said. “It’s going to hopefully be very beneficial for folks that can’t afford to provide sick leave to their staff. That’s not the position the city is in, and that’s why they exempted municipalities.”

The city also already offers its full-time employees 96 hours of paid sick leave annually and up to 48 hours of paid sick leave to its part-time employees with hours accrued each pay period.

Administered by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the state program will start collecting premiums from participating employers and their employees beginning in 2023 with benefits becoming available in 2024.

Staff cited the rising cost of living and the program only benefiting a limited number of the city’s 857 full-time and 707 part-time employees as reasons not to sign up for it.

“We’re trying to be as equitable as possible,” Councilmember Shiquita Yarbrough said in a separate interview Tuesday.

Yarbrough believed that the city was already doing a good job of providing its employees with reasonable benefits and did not want to force people to have pay into something they may not utilize.

Had the Council elected to participate, city employees would have had to contribute 0.9% of their annual salary to the program with the city paying half of the total cost and the employee contributing the other half.

Meaning, if a city employee made $78,000 a year, their premium would have amounted to $702 a year, of which they would have paid $351.

The program would have offered up to $1,100 per week in benefits for up to 12 weeks.

However, even though the city of Longmont will not be participating in Colorado’s paid family and medical leave program, its employees can still do so on their own, and the state will cover the other half of their premium.

“The city is doing the best that (it) can,” Yarbrough said with respect to attracting and retaining quality employees. “This is an issue across this nation.”

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Matthew Bennett
2022-05-25 04:21:05
Boulder Daily Camera
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