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Regional Interests

Oregon House votes to stall rollout of paid family-leave benefits

A bill stalling the roll out of paid family leave benefits has passed the Oregon House of Representatives. It’s headed to the Senate for a first reading on Wednesday.

According to the Oregon Legislature’s website, HB 3398 passed 33-19, on Tuesday. The bill would delay many facets of the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program by a year. That includes the Oregon Employment Department’s deadline for creating rules for the policy, and the date that employers and employees will begin paying to fund the program, originally set for January 2022.

Employees who qualify for paid leave under the program would not be able to receive it until September 2023 under the proposed change, eight months later than planned.

Oregon lawmakers enacted one of the country’s most generous laws granting paid leave for workers in 2019. It applies to workers needing time off to care for ailing family members, bond with a new child, or recover from illness. When deadlines to roll out the programs began approaching earlier this year, the state decided it won’t be able to start that policy as soon as planned.

The Employment Department, already battered by a pandemic that laid bare its flawed system for distributing unemployment insurance payments, says it needs the leeway.

“It’s clear that we need to adjust this timeline to implement the PFMLI program successfully,” an OED explanation of the proposed change said. “Even with these changes, the timeline to implement the PFMLI program is still aggressive. We remain committed to launching this vital program as quickly and successfully as possible.”

The department says a delay would offer a number of benefits, including allowing it to “build a modernized technology platform” that will smoothly distribute benefits, train up staff, and build comprehensive rules.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting