Paid family and medical leave on the ballot for Colorado voters

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DENVER (KDVR) — One of the 11 different measures Coloradans will vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this year is looking to establish a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado.

Those opposing it say an extended leave now would do more harm than good for employees in the long run but advocates are stressing the importance of family.

“This would give you back the most valuable thing in the world, time,” April Kimbrough said.

Kimbrough’s world was rocked this year when she found out her son was diagnosed with renal medullary carcinoma, a rare kidney cancer with a grave prognosis. To make matters worse, he is 1,400 miles away in Atlanta. She works in Denver and received little support from her managers when she wanted to go check on him.

“When my son was diagnosed and I got the word and I took my flight over, I had a voicemail saying, ‘When are you returning back to work?’ The entire time I was setting up his chemotherapy and such, it was ‘When are you returning?’ Even though I was working remotely, you’re supposed to be physically here,” Kimbrough said.

Proposition 118 would create a paid family and medical leave program for employees and businesses in Colorado. Employers would match employees’ contribution of .45% of their salary for a combined 0.9% contribution into the program. Opponents believe the proposition’s layout will lead to problems for Colorado over time.

“The way it’s proposed, through the ballot initiative, is not sustainable. This tax, the more people that use the program, the more expensive it becomes. That’s the dilemma, really, that proponents have right now,” Loren Furman of the Colorado Chamber of Commerce said. “They want a very Cadillac program but that means the more people that use it, the more the tax will have to be increased to pay for it.”

Others also worry about the impact the measure could have on small businesses.

The proposition allows employers who offer private insurance or have less than 10 employees to be exempt from the program. Ashley Henshaw, owner of a childcare center in Littleton, has 18 employees.

She is calling for other small businesses to get on board.

“This bill would cost an employer roughly around $3 [per employee] to support this bill. It’s an affordable way to retain your employees. When you’re a small business, I think that it’s even more important for you to find a way to take care of your staff. You do not want to lose your staff,” Henshaw said.

Right now, Colorado follows FMLA for employers with 50 or more workers. State lawmakers also passed a measure earlier this year for six days of sick leave workers at businesses with more than 16 people. That law takes effect in January.

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