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HARTFORD — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation Tuesday that puts the state on track to have a paid family medical leave system in place by 2022.
Advocates and state lawmakers cheered as the Democrat signed the bill, which provides most workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member, a new child or their own serious health condition. The program will also cover medical leave needed for organ or bone marrow donations or a qualifying event arising from a family member on active duty.
“It’s about time,” Lamont said during a packed bill-signing ceremony at the state Capitol.
Advocates have been trying for many years to pass legislation that provides workers with partial pay while they take care of themselves or a loved one. House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, a Democrat from Hartford, described how it was a challenge for lawmakers, marked by various setbacks, to finally get enough votes in the General Assembly to support the bill this year.
“So after five, six years a long slog, of working very hard, of shaping public opinion, of drafting a bill to get consensus, to get the right number of votes, the marathon is finally over,” Ritter said.
While some details still need to be worked out, the program will be funded with a 0.5% payroll deduction on nearly all workers in Connecticut, beginning Jan. 1, 2021. Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, eligible workers can receive a weekly benefit capped at 60 times the minimum wage or $780 on a $13 minimum wage. It will be $900 when Connecticut’s $15-an-hour minimum wage takes effect in 2023.
The new law will apply to private sector workers with one or more employees. Self-employed workers will have the ability to opt into the program, while employers who already offer these benefits will be allowed to opt out, so long as the alternative plan provides the same benefits as the state program.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, a Republican from Derby, said she supports the concept of a paid family medical leave program but believes “it should be a private choice and not a mandate instated by government.”