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First payments in Oregon’s new paid leave program are arriving soon. Here are 5 things to know

Paid Leave Oregopn will fund up to 12 weeks of paid time off for workers recovering from serious illness or bonding with a new child.
Courtesy Pexels
Paid Leave Oregopn will fund up to 12 weeks of paid time off for workers recovering from serious illness or bonding with a new child.

Paid Leave Oregon offers up to 12 or 14 weeks of paid time off due to illness, to bond with a new child, or to seek help for domestic or sexual violence. Initial payments for the program are set to go out next week.

Eligible Oregon workers can now take paid time off for certain life events through a program administered through the state’s employment department.

Employees and many businesses have been paying into Paid Leave Oregon since January, however Sept. 3 was the first day workers could take time off for things like illness or caring for a new child. The first payments to compensate for that time are expected to go out in the middle of next week, according to state officials.

Here are five things to know:

Isn’t this the paid leave program state lawmakers passed in 2019? Why did it take so long?

Yes, the Oregon Legislature approved the paid leave program in 2019 and originally planned to have employees and businesses start contributing in 2022.

However, the pandemic, an outdated computer system, and internal dysfunction — including an outside investigation that found racism and gender bias against an Employment Department employee who resigned in October 2021 — pushed the program start date to 2023.

How many workers have applied?

As of Sept. 5, the state has received 10,222 applications for Paid Leave, according to a dashboard maintained by the Oregon Employment Department, which is administering the Paid Leave program.

So far, 1,828 applications have been approved. A department spokesperson said 452 claims have been denied. The remaining applications are awaiting review and could be for leave in the future, such as if someone is planning to take leave to bond with a new child at a later date.

What type of things can employees use paid leave for?

According to the Paid Leave Oregon website, employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for family, medical or “safe leave” — the program’s term for people needing leave to escape domestic or sexual violence. Workers taking paid time off for pregnancy may be eligible for up to 14 weeks of leave.

Things that qualify under the program include time off to recover from illness or to care of a family member, leave to bond with a new child, and for victims of sexual or domestic violence and stalking to find the help they need.

What do employees need to apply?

Workers seeking benefits must send in certain documentation that corresponds to the type of leave they’re taking, such as a birth certificate for a new child.

“Many of the claims are taking longer to process and are slowed down because people do not attach the supporting documents we need for their specific leave,” Karen Madden Humelbaugh, director of Paid Leave Oregon, told reporters during a Thursday briefing. “We really want to emphasize that people should go to our employee toolkit on our website.”

Humelbaugh said workers will find achecklist and employee guidebook on the website that lists which documents they’ll need when applying for benefits.

Which businesses pay in? Are any exempt?

Nearly all Oregon employees contribute, sending 0.6% of gross pay up to $132,900 in wages to the program. However, only some employers must pay in.

Businesses with more than 25 employees are required to pay 0.4% of each employee’s gross pay to the program unless they offer a similar program. So far, 3,160 employers have applied for equivalent plans, and of those 3,090 have been approved, according to a Paid Leave Oregon spokesperson.

Companies with fewer than 25 employees do not need to pay into the program but must still ensure the employee’s contribution is being submitted.
Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Kyra Buckley
Kyra Buckley has been a volunteer in KLCC’s newsroom since August 2015. She will graduate from the University of Oregon in December 2015 with a BA in Journalism and Political Science. At the UO she held leadership positions on student run publications like Envision, an online environmental magazine, and This Oregon Life, a storytelling podcast.