New Family Leave Program Sees Lower Demand Than Anticipated
Nearly one month after the state's Paid Family Leave Insurance Program began, the Employment Development Department has received fewer than half the number of applications it had anticipated, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Quinn, San Jose Mercury News, 7/29). Under (SB 1661), which former Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed into law in 2002, workers who pay into the state disability fund are eligible to receive as much as 55% of their regular pay, up to $728 per week, while they take time off from work to care for a seriously ill relative or a newborn. The cap will be increased to $840 weekly in 2008. The law is funded through payroll deductions of 0.08% that have been in place since January. The program, which began July 1, is the first of its kind in the nation (California Healthline, 7/1).
State officials had anticipated receiving 25,000 applications for paid leave this month, but they have received only 13,400, including 12,760 for bonding with an infant or adopted child and 640 to care for a severely ill relative. Advocates for the new law say fewer people have signed up for family leave because they are not aware of the new program or do not understand how it works. State workers who have been processing the leave requests have also had to call applicants to explain some of the program's requirements.
Despite the low number of applications, the state has a three-week backlog in processing claims, according to the Mercury News. Suzanne Schroeder, a spokesperson for EDD, said typical start-up complications, such as computer system failures, have created the backlog. To help people who have started leave but have not yet received checks because of the backlog, EDD will expedite "hardship cases," according to the Mercury News. Schroeder said that once the program is operating smoothly, applicants can anticipate a maximum waiting period of two to three weeks (San Jose Mercury News, 7/29).
Michelle Quinn, business reporter for the Mercury News, will discuss the family leave program's start on KQED's "This Week" on Friday (Quinn, "This Week," KQED, 7/30). The complete segment will be available online in RealPlayer a few days after the broadcast.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.