Colorado prospers when Colorado families and communities prosper.With ballots in mailboxes and on kitchen tables across the state, Colorado voters now have the opportunity to ensure every family has access to Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), securing Colorado’s future prosperity.

Voting yes on Proposition 118 is especially important because according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, four in five Coloradans don’t have access to Paid Family and Medical Leave. They can’t afford to take time off work to care for a newborn or a seriously ill loved one — something that’s needed now, more than ever. Viewed through a health equity lens as well as a family strengthening lens, PFML is an urgently needed solution–and within reach if Coloradans vote yes on 118.

Illuminate Colorado supports Proposition 118, and we hope you’ll join us in voting YES for paid leave. It’s going to take all of us standing up and working hard from now through November 3rd to change the lives of millions of hard-working Coloradans. 

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How Will the Program Work? 

Proposition 118 creates a state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave insurance program that allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave (including an additional four weeks for qualifying pregnancy or childbirth complications) and keep their job. To qualify, an employee must have worked for their employer for at least 180 days. The program will be paid for by premiums split between workers and their employers. The employer must pay at least 50 percent of the premium, but may choose to contribute a larger percentage.

Depending on weekly wage, workers will be eligible to receive up to 37-90% of their income during their time off, with higher percentages for lower-income workers. A new PFML division in the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) will oversee the new program and create rules and regulations to govern the program. To learn more, review the 2020 Ballot Information Book (Blue Book). 

Strengthening Families & Preventing Child Maltreatment

Paid Family and Medical Leave programs are associated with significantly higher rates of successful breastfeeding and maternal mental health, improved maternal and infant sleep, as well as improved child health and educational outcomes. PFML decreases caregiver stress, work-family conflict, employee burnout, and rates of family stressors and risk factors. PFML programs improve economic stability of families and improve women’s economic growth after paid leave. It is crucial to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave considering that many child care facilities do not accept infants before 12 weeks of age. 

Paid Family and Medical Leave allows the family more time with an infant during the most critical year for preventing child fatality: the first year of life. PFML programs have been found to decrease infant mortality rates as well as decrease rates of abusive head trauma (shaken baby syndrome). Abusive head trauma is the leading cause of physical child abuse in the United States. Medical costs alone attributable to abusive head trauma in the four years after diagnosis average nearly $50,000 per affected child. After California implemented a minimal paid family leave policy in 2004 (6 weeks of 55% wage replacement), abusive head trauma hospital admissions decreased by 5.1 per 100,000 children.

Offering paid time to parents/caregivers to care for not only their infants, but also themselves, increases Parental Resilience, Concrete Supports, Social Connections, Knowledge Of Parenting and Child Development, and Social and Emotional Competence Of Children, each of which are shown to strengthen families and decrease the likelihood of child maltreatment. 

Advancing Gender & Racial Equity to Ensure Opportunities for All

Currently, higher wage jobs are more likely to provide paid family leave than low-wage jobs. White workers and male workers are disproportionately overrepresented in the highest wage brackets in Colorado, meaning that Black and Hispanic workers as well as women workers are less likely to have access to paid family leave. Over time, gender and racial barriers to accessing and building wealth are compounded by a lack of access to PFML. This inequitable access to economic support may make it more difficult for families of color to overcome the financial burden of a serious family or medical need, such as COVID-19.

One of the biggest barriers that limits women’s path to economic security is unaffordable child care. Women often face a trade-off between going to work and paying for child care or staying at home and forgoing the work opportunity. Although the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid time off and job protection for workers at companies with over 50 employees, it doesn’t protect the many workers who do not qualify for the benefit, and even those that do qualify may be unable to afford to utilize it because the time is unpaid. Both pregnancy and the subsequent birth of a child cause challenges for FMLA-exempt women who would like to remain in their current position after the birth of a child, but don’t have any legal guarantee of being able to return. 

Another barrier to economic security for women is gender-based violence. Research has found that intimate partner violence is more likely to start and/or escalate during the perinatal time period. Proposition 118 includes up to three days of paid safe time for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This economic support for survivors can allow time for safety planning, accessing any needed medical care or mental health care, obtaining legal assistance, etc., ensuring affected employees and their families receive the time, resources, and care they need to safely exit a dangerous environment or situation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that states implement PFML to reduce gender inequality by protecting maternal employment and earnings, which are vital to being able to leave an abusive relationship. 

Paid safe time is incredibly valuable given the intersections of perinatal mental health, substance use, and intimate partner violence, all of which impact the wellbeing of children in the home. Several studies suggest that survivors may use substances as a way to cope with ongoing violence and mental health symptoms. Paid safe time may empower survivors to begin to meet potential co-occurring needs such as mental health supports or substance use disorder treatment. Offering support services for caregivers that use a two-generational approach and provide support for whole families is essential to building protective factors, breaking the generational cycle of abuse, and sustaining recovery. 

In consideration of the combination of all of the above factors, women of color are disproportionately impacted by the absence of PFML. Proposition 118 will ensure that all workers, regardless of race, income, or gender, can take the time they need to care for themselves and their family members. When we strengthen parents, we strengthen children, families, and communities. For additional information, see how paid leave can be a tool for improving equity.

Proposition 118 will help us put our families first, and it will help Colorado businesses by providing a low-cost benefit option to businesses of any size. Coloradans should no longer have to choose between taking care of their newborn and keeping their paycheck or their job. The PMFL program that would be established through Proposition 118 would create significant long-term improvements for children and families, and is the kind of innovation we need.

If you’re interested in additional ways to support Proposition 118, receive updates, and more, get connected with the grassroots Colorado Families First Campaign.

Read the entire  Illuminate Colorado 2020 Statewide Ballot Measure Guide
READ THE ENTIRE ILLUMINATE COLORADO 2020 STATEWIDE BALLOT MEASURE GUIDE

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