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Colorado workers can apply for paid family and medical leave through new online portal

A Denver mother holds her 4-month-old daughter on a doctor's visit at Denver Health. (John Daley/CPR)

Coloradans can start applying for paid family and medical leave through an online portal run by the state’s labor department.

Most Colorado workers will be eligible for paid family leave starting Jan. 1, 2024. The Family & Medical Leave Insurance program, approved by voters in 2020, will partially replace workers’ wages while they go on leave for childbirth, adoption, serious health conditions, and more.

It was the first time that voters in any state have been asked to decide on a paid leave law.

The measure is funded by premiums equal to about 0.9% of a worker’s wages, although that could rise to 1.2%. Workers and employers are generally expected to split the cost. The program started collecting fees this year and the benefits start in the new year.

The application portal is launching early as a way to help people who know they will need paid leave as soon as the benefit becomes available. Every private employee in Colorado will be eligible to have a portion of their wages covered for 12 weeks for the following reasons:

  • The birth, adoption, or fostering of a new child
  • Medical care for them or their family
  • Addressing the impacts of domestic violence
  • Military service of a family member

The law requires all employers to either participate in the program, which is funded by withholding premiums from workers' paychecks or offer a comparable benefit that meets state requirements.

However, local governments are allowed to opt-out. So far, 20 cities have opted out, including Denver, citing high costs and the untested nature of the new program.

The state is holding three virtual town halls over the next three months in English and Spanish to help people navigate the portal on the following dates:

  • Dec. 6, 2023 – English 11 a.m., Spanish 3 p.m.
  • Jan. 10, 2024 – English 11 a.m., Spanish 3 p.m.
  • Feb. 1, 2024 – English 11 a.m., Spanish 3 p.m.

Registration, streaming, and dial-in details are available here.

Public affairs reporter Andy Kenney contributed to this report.

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