Prop 118 is a Major Win for Colorado Families

The passage of Proposition 118, which creates a state-facilitated paid family and medical leave benefit for most Colorado workers, is a notable bright spot in this year’s election. Supported by over 1.5 million voters, Prop 118 is a huge win that benefits expectant parents, caregivers for loved ones, and those recovering from serious illness. At a time when we’re seeing an exodus of women from the labor market due to compounding COVID-induced family and workplace stresses, this benefit couldn’t be more timely.

But this win for Coloradans also provides a likely boost for workers across the country. On Tuesday, Colorado becomes the ninth state to create a paid family and medical leave program, but the very first to do so via the ballot. As the national movement to develop strong paid family and medical leave programs grows, Colorado’s created a proven blueprint for other states to follow. 

The success of Proposition 118 also positions Colorado as a leader in the fight to expand universal portable benefits. These benefits are characterized by their universality, applying to all workers, regardless of how an individual works, or who they work for. But to earn this moniker, universal portable benefits must also be expansionary, growing the already existent social safety net of programs like unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation. There’s no doubt the paid family and medical leave program created through Proposition 118 fits this category, providing a necessary and new benefit to most workers throughout our state.

But now that the measure’s passed, what comes next?

What Happens in the Coming Months?

Though perhaps the most critical step, passing Proposition 118 was only the first of many waypoints along the path toward setting up a paid family and medical leave program in Colorado. In the coming months, program specifics will get worked out through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s (CDLE) rules and regulations process. Simultaneously, CDLE will also start developing its internal infrastructure and readying itself to begin providing the benefit. This will include creating educational and outreach materials for employers to share with their workers.

When Can We Start Accessing the Benefit?

Not for a couple years. It’ll take some time for the state to set up the infrastructure and build the needed reserves to pay benefits. Coloradans will be assessed premiums in 2023, with benefits available a year later in January 2024.

Can Any of the Program Components Change in the Coming Months or Years?

Yes. The paid leave program created through Proposition 118 amends existing state statute. As a result, changes to the program can be made by the state legislature.

A Colorado-specific paid family and medical leave program has been years in the making. It has taken substantial effort from dedicated legislative champions like Senator Faith Winter and Representative Matt Gray and continued commitment from a coalition of community organizations across Colorado. But it was the support of thousands of individual Coloradans that finally pushed this effort over the finish line, creating a benefit that will support the health and well-being of our state for years to come.