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OPINION: Putting FAMLI First

It’s Time To Do The Right Thing

By Rebecca Zimmerman

For the GPHN

I have seen firsthand how our community takes pride in our ability to support our families while excelling in our careers and providing value to our employers. As a mother of two young girls and domestic abuse and stalking survivor, I also know that life doesn’t always go according to plan. 

At some point, the time will come for us all to welcome a child into our homes, care for an aging parent, support a partner in crisis, or access domestic violence services. Coloradans shouldn’t have to choose between caring for our loved one or healing ourselves, and the dignity of self-sufficiency through work.

Thanks to our own state Sen. Angela Williams, along with co-sponsor Sen. Faith Winter and a broad coalition of local businesses, professional associations, and community groups, Senate Bill 19-188, known as FAMLI (Family Medical Leave Insurance Program) is working its way through the state legislature.

With FAMLI, employees and employers each pay a bit into an insurance fund—less than the price of fries at a fast food place each week. In the event that a worker needs to take leave to care for a seriously ill family member, integrate an adopted child into the home, or focus fully on fighting a serious health issue like cancer, the program provides partial wage replacement and job security for the employee. FAMLI also makes it affordable for the employer to bring in a temporary replacement and keep their business running at full speed, and do the right thing by their employees.

FAMLI also includes a desperately needed provision that allows survivors to take “safe time” from work to cope with the effects of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. 

As I testified before two of our state Senate committees, stalking is the most common form of workplace violence. Allowing the target to take time off work while the stalker is active protects both the survivor and the entire workplace from danger. Safe time saves workplaces money, while allowing the survivor and children to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient and helping to derail the cycle of abuse.

Research shows that most Colorado workers – upward of 80 percent – do not currently have access to paid family leave, but that the vast majority need and want it, and that voters overwhelming support it. In fact, many of our newly elected representatives campaigned on the promise to make this popular and much-needed policy a reality for Colorado families. 

FAMLI is a pro-family and pro-business policy that promotes safe and healthy families and keeps workers in the workforce rather than forcing them onto public benefits when a family crisis occurs. It reduces the financial barriers for small businesses who want the opportunity to provide competitive benefits for their employees, increase loyalty, and reduce turnover and training costs but couldn’t previously afford this type of program. 

Most importantly, SB 19-188 gives Colorado’s families the right to care for themselves and their loved ones while maintaining the dignity of self-sufficiency and employment. That’s a true win-win for businesses and families.

Editor’s Note: Facing opposition from business associations and other critics, lawmakers in late April scrapped SB 19-188. They now plan to assemble a task force to make recommendations and establish what the Denver Post termed a “path forward.”

Rebecca Zimmerman is a native Coloradan, longtime Park Hill resident, and midlife graduate student at the University of Denver.

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