Governor announces voluntary paid family and medical leave program

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STATE OFFERS VOLUNTARY PAID LEAVE PROGRAM: If someone gets hurt or has the birth of a child — among other qualifying events — Vermont plans to offer insurance so those employees can stay home. The Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Plan is estimated to cost less than $5 a month for state and private sector employees.

MONTPELIER — The governor announced Tuesday that the state has hired The Hartford to set up a new Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Plan, which is being pitched as a voluntary paid family and medical leave program to be fully implemented by 2025.

The plan, which is similar to the Twin State Voluntary Leave Plan that the state proposed in 2019 along with the State of New Hampshire,

Beginning July 23 of 2023, VT-FMLI will cover 60 percent of an employee’s income for up to six weeks, pending that there’s a qualifying event.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, qualifying events include the following:
Qualified events include:

  • The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • An employee’s adoption of a child or foster care placement, and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • Caring for the employee’s spouse, child, stepchild, foster child, ward who lives with the employee, parent or parent of the employee’s spouse who has a serious health condition;
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of their job; or
  • Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty,” or to care for a covered service-member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service-member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (i.e. “military caregiver leave”).

Gov. Phil Scott called the program a “win-win” because it has support which will come from the state employees, who will be automatically enrolled, but won’t require buy-in from other Vermonters who don’t want the insurance.

“I have long supported paid family and medical leave, provided it is voluntary and affordable,” Scott said. “By enrolling State employees to create a pool, and opening it up to all employers and individuals, I believe we can accomplish our shared goal of providing the peace of mind of paid family and medical leave more efficiently, affordably and quickly than imposing another mandatory broad-based tax on already over-burdened workers.”

The state employee workforce will start receiving coverage in July 2023. Then, beginning in 2024, private and other non-public employees will have a variety of plans from The Hartford that they can choose from. Self-employed individuals also will be able to purchase plans.

The program will cost approximately $2 million annually, which amounts to about $4.50 per week for those using the program.

“As a leading provider of employee benefits and leave management, we understand the value of paid leave to employees in Vermont and have decades of experience offering employers effective paid leave programs,” said Jonathan Bennett, head of Group Benefits at The Hartford. “The Hartford has the expertise, technology, and skilled staff to provide a seamless customer experience and make Vermont’s innovative program a success,” he said.

Opposition from top Democrats

Just hours after the governor’s announcement, Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, expressed doubts about the paid-leave program.

“I look forward to reviewing the details of the governor’s program, but at first glance, it does not meet the needs of Vermonters in this moment,” she said in a statement.

“The legislature will continue to prioritize access to these critical needs this coming session. We will review reports that outline a path forward in January and take testimony from all interested parties to ensure we hear from all voices on the best way to make these policies a reality and lead the way in supporting working families,” she said.

She suggested that the governor will listen to proposals for a larger program.

“I was happy to hear that the governor is open to discussion on a universal, more inclusive program and I look forward to working with the governor and his team this coming session,” she wrote.

During the question and answer portion of his press conference Tuesday, Scott reviewed some of the challenges the state needs to consider before committing to a more cost-intensive mandatory program.

“We are challenged by inflation, individually, collectively, every sector,” he said. “But also it’s really about the workforce. We need to bring more people into this state and I think this is part of the answer.”

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at bielawski82@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

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11 thoughts on “Governor announces voluntary paid family and medical leave program

  1. Addendum: Instead of clobbering those Repubs who dare be reasonable forward thinkers, as impossible as it may seem, you ought to try a little open-mindedness.

  2. Does this program do away with the established short term disability coverage, long term disability coverage, family leave act protections, and paid personal time off agreements? The aforementioned are employee benefits were of no cost or minimal cost to the employee. The paid personal time benefit managed by the employee – some accumulating time for potential illness or family leave. I don’t understand this program, but sounds to me it’s shifting established benefits and protections to a new program that the employee has to sign up for and pay a premium. Who is actually winning under this program? Smells like Obamacare.

  3. Phil wants to bring more people to Vermont; well it’s happening in and around Springfield. I work part time at the recycling center and see the influx of out of state plates. Just yesterday there were 3 new people, 1 from CT and 2 from MA. They aren’t coming to take the low wage jobs VT has.
    I realized yesterday that born and raised Vermonters are now on the endangered list.
    The idea for wanting this program is good but few employers can benefit with many being hurt.
    Maybe since our elected officials are moving towards socialism may it’s time for the state to take over all businesses and have everyone state employees. That seems to be the only logical next step for them to take.

  4. The hartford is absolutely the WORST company to have to deal with. I’ve had many interactions with them on the phone and every time ended up slamming the phone down and pulling out my hair.Nice going gov. They actually dropped my house coverage after 20 yrs of paying $300 per year because they said the house was too old. Funny it wasn’t too old for 20 yrs though

  5. So, as it stands now, all state employees will be automatically covered, at no direct cost to them, for plans that will be paid for through additional taxes on all of us. The private sector businesses can opt in through a variety of plans all of which, however, will require a buy-in from the employer. Ditto for the self-employed but with a higher buy-in cost. The state, using tax money, will then be competing with private businesses which will need to raise prices to cover these added expenses.

    Instead of being Scott’s “win-win-win” proposal it will be a lose, lose, lose reality: Businesses as well as consumers will incur higher expenses, Vermont will continue to be down-graded as a non-business friendly state and employees will find it more difficult to get hired due to dwindling employers and fewer job prospects. What good is the family leave proposal if fewer families and businesses move to Vermont?

    The governor and the state legislature needs to get out of our way with rules and regulations that hamper rather than help our struggling state.

    • I don’t mean to criticize your entry, but I would like to clarify something.

      I have not read the actual plan put forward, but I am not sure your statement that this will be a tax on all Vermonters is correct. Is that in the plan somewhere?

      I read another story on this program and it said the program would cost $2M per year and would cover 8,000 people. (I assume that is the number of state workers?) If so, that would result in a weekly cost to those 8,000 people of around $4.50 per week “for those using the program”. (Quoted from the article above.) Those numbers and the quote from this article seems to imply to me that only those covered would pay and not all Vermonters.

      By the way, I live in Connecticut and they implemented the same program for the entire state and indeed we all pay 0.5% tax on our income. (This results in about the same cost as the VT program.) I certainly don’t like the additional tax. Mostly because I am skeptical the program will be poorly run and another target for fraudsters. And in general I don’t like paying for something I will never use (that is typical for all “insurance), but the cost they take from my paycheck is about equal to one meal from McDonalds.

  6. It seems like the very first step in Adulting, when there is a baby on the way, would be to start saving and preparing for maternity leave- for your child.

    No one seems to even be understanding the downfalls of being so dependent upon government to solve our every issue and problem.
    We are supposed to be self sufficient, independent people standing on our two feet.
    And we are supposed to have a government that would expect this- not dependency.

    Remember Margaret Thatcher’s wise and knowing words: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples money”.
    So what happens then? with all these dependent people that don’t know how to support themselves?
    Or are we just going to have a pandemic every few years to get a payout?

  7. Pretty much any employer who offers full-time work provides paid time off…it’s called “vacation”. If you CHOOSE to use that time to lounge on a beach in Hawaii or to care for Aunt Mabel, that is up to you. Above and beyond that, why should anyone be getting paid for NOT doing work? If the compensation package of a prospective employer does not float your boat, then you are free to seek it from a different employer…EVERY business in the State of Vermont has a “help wanted” sign up.

    • These are the harsh predictable comments from Repubs that seemingly have long represented TNR. Troubling.

      I was told by an insider that TNR was trying to capture some VTDigger readers. Never happen given the character of the posters on here.

      When I came to this site, I was hoping to read balanced opinions from intelligent reasonable people. They are very rare. Most are mean-spirited, ignorantly rigid and poisonous.

      As one of my supervisors used to say when encountering our boss’s cruelty, “thank god I am not her.” It comes to mind now – thank god I am not them.

      While I am very disturbed about Dem politics, I am terrified of yours.

      • Perhaps your childhood did not afford you the valuable lessons of having been read the stories about the Golden Goose or The Ant and the Grasshopper? The taxpayers of Vermont are the modern equivalent of the Golden Goose and this program will soon be slung over the shoulders of Vermont taxpayers. Maybe you aren’t on the paying side of that equation and dont care?

      • At least you get to see the comments here, Joy. Your VT Digger folks have a habit of censoring comments – using the same logic as you – defining them as innuendo, mean spirited, ignorantly rigid, and poisonous.

        I guess it takes one to know one. You’ll fit right in here.

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