By Christian Wade | The Center Square
The New Hampshire Executive Council has approved a $6.16 million contract with a private company to administer the state’s new paid leave program.
The council voted on Wednesday to approve a request from the state Department of Administrative Services to hire MetLife, a national insurance company, to oversee the program, which will get underway in January.
The Granite State Paid Family and Medical Leave Plan, a key part of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu’s agenda, will provide qualifying workers with 60% of their average weekly wage for up to six weeks per year. Sununu has billed the new voluntary paid leave law as “the first of its kind” in the nation and argues it will help recruit and retain state workers.
D.J. Bettencourt, deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Insurance Department, told council members on Wednesday that the state has found “a wonderful partner” teaming up with the insurance giant.
“It’s a large, well-known company,” he told councilors. “They’re familiar with these types of programs, and they’re going to have the staff and resources to make it a success.”
The council also approved a $1.9 million contract to a New York-based firm to market the new program and conduct research ahead of its implementation.
The new paid family and medical leave program was approved as part of the state’s two-year $13.5 billion budget signed by Sununu last year.
Under the Granite State Paid Family and Medical Leave Plan, qualifying workers can take the time off for the birth of a child or to care for a newborn, an adopted baby or child. They can also get time off to care for family members with health conditions. The state’s 11,000-member work force automatically qualifies for the benefits.
Businesses that participate in the program and pay for employee premiums can deduct 50% of the amount they paid from their business enterprise taxes.
Funding for the program will come from the state’s general fund, and a yet-to-be-created “stabilization trust fund” the Sununu administration says will keep costs down.
New Hampshire has wrangled over the creation of a paid leave program for several years, with partisan divisions over making the program mandatory for employers.
Sununu vetoed a “universal” paid family leave bill approved by the then-Democratic controlled Legislature in 2019. He called the plan an “income tax” and vetoed a similar effort offered by Democratic lawmakers last year. He came back with a proposal, which is a voluntary, opt-in plan, as opposed to a mandatory requirement.
A group of House Republicans sought unsuccessfully to repeal the new law, arguing that it’s an example of “government overreach” and that taxpayers shouldn’t foot the bill for state workers who are also covered by it.