Portland, Oregon 2021-05-07 17:14:21 –
Portland, OregonPortland Tribune) — Oregon workers may have to wait a few more months after the scheduled launch before they can begin collecting benefits under the state’s paid family leave program.
Deputy Director David Garstenfeld confirmed that the Employment Department would ask lawmakers more time to start the program. This was approved by Congress in 2019. , 2023, the first benefit will be paid.
He said the new target date for benefits would be September 2023 if lawmakers agreed to the change.
Gerstenfeld told reporters at a weekly conference call on Wednesday, May 5th. “It’s the earliest day we can rest assured that we can deploy the program in a way that provides essential support to people.”
Oregon is one of nine states and Washington, DC that has approved such a program. The other two states and Oregon are in the process of establishing them.
“The date chosen didn’t anticipate a pandemic,” Gerstenfeld said. “They were pretty aggressive dates in the first place.”
The department has held several virtual public meetings in the last few months to get comments on how the program was formed. However, Gerstenfeld said staff attention was primarily focused on unemployment benefits claims resulting from the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago.
At peak times, government agencies received more than 500,000 claims for unemployment benefits from state trust funds and five federal programs created by Congress during the recession.
“Our agency has focused on supporting all new programs over the past year,” he said. “That meant we had to divert our attention, and we haven’t made as much progress in the past year as we haven’t.”
Gerstenfeld was the director of the agency’s family vacation department responsible for setting up the program until Governor Kate Brown fired Kay Erickson a year ago and appointed Gerstenfeld as director of the entire agency. Gerstenfeld was Director of the Unemployment Insurance Division from 2011 to 2019 when he joined the family vacation program.
Under the Oregon program, workers who earned at least $ 1,000 during the previous year are eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, with a maximum benefit of $ 1,215 per week. Based on the salary deduction, employers contribute 40% and employees contribute 60%.
Gerstenfeld said that if the program was available during the pandemic, its benefits could have mitigated the effects of the recession on workers.
“Without that program, there was a big gap in being able to keep ourselves safe and support people and their families who needed to care for themselves and the sick,” he said. “It especially affected low-wage workers who are unlikely to take such paid leave and those who were disproportionately affected during this recession.
“The pandemic has shown how important a program is, and that it is ready to support those who need it and depend on it when it runs, especially new ones. I showed us and everyone how important it is. “
President Joe Biden has proposed a national paid family vacation program as part of the $ 1.8 trillion American family planning program. The cost will be paid from the tax increase for high-income households. He also offers a 12-week benefit for $ 4,000 a month, which is less than the Oregon program envisions.
“Comparing the proposed national law to the Oregon program, our program is powerful,” says Gerstenfeld. “It came about as a result of compromise, and in most situations it provides more support than national programs for both workers and small businesses.”
Federal law said federal law could exempt states that are already or are in the process of similar programs, such as Oregon, but is providing federal support.
Oregon began family medical leave in 1991, two years before federal law, but is unpaid for 12 weeks. The law is overseen by the Department of Labor and Industry, similar to the paid sick leave law passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2015.
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