Paid family, sick leave initiative a step closer to state ballot

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DENVER | A liberal coalition says it has collected more than enough voter signatures to get a paid family leave initiative onto Colorado’s November ballot.

Colorado Families First said Friday it submitted more than 205,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office for review. Just over 124,000 valid signatures are needed to qualify for the ballot.

The initiative would create a $1.3 billion state-run paid family and medical leave insurance program, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reported. Employers and workers would pay into the fund, which would allow workers to be paid while taking time off for medical reasons for themselves or family.

Employees could qualify for up to 90% of regular weekly pay — but no more than $1,100 per week — for up to 12 weeks of leave. Current federal law allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of medical leave without requiring employers to pay them.

Colorado’s largest business chambers have fended off efforts by state Democratic lawmakers to create a paid family leave program, questioning the cost to employers and workers as well as the fiscal soundness of the proposals.

Inspired by the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers did pass legislation requiring employers to provide at least six days of paid sick leave — 16 during a declared public health emergency.