Oregon’s new paid leave program has paid out over $21 million in benefits since September start

By Kyra Buckley (OPB)
Oct. 12, 2023 10:38 p.m.

Around 400 applications are coming in daily for the program intended to help workers take time off for illness, safety, or to bond with a new child.

Oregonians have received more than $21 million in benefits from Paid Leave Oregon, since it started paying claims last month.

The program compensates eligible workers for taking time off to bond with a new child, deal with an illness, or seek safety from domestic violence. Employees and many businesses have been paying into the state’s paid leave program since January. Sept. 3 was the first day workers could take time off.

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A month into its new paid leave program, the Oregon Employment Department has paid out $21 million in benefits, with about 13,000 approved claims.

A month into its new paid leave program, the Oregon Employment Department has paid out $21 million in benefits, with about 13,000 approved claims.

Chris Lehman/KLCC

So far the state has approved more than 13,000 of the 23,000 applications received, according to Paid Leave Oregon director Karen Humelbaugh.

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“We’re receiving over 400 new claims per day,” Humelbaugh told reporters during a Wednesday briefing. “And we’re processing almost 500 claims per day, which is about what we expected in terms of volume.”

Under the rules of Paid Leave Oregon , workers can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for family, medical or “safe leave” — the program’s term for people seeking safety from domestic or sexual violence. Employees taking paid time off for pregnancy may be eligible for up to 14 weeks leave.

Workers interested in the program first set up an account in the online portal, called Frances. Once employees have an account they can file a claim seeking benefits, including sending in the required documentation corresponding to the type of leave they’re taking, such as a birth certificate for a new child.

But some applicants are running into a problem: Humelbaugh said some are seeing their application vanish.

“This is because our system resets every Saturday at 11:59 p.m.,” she said. “That means that anyone’s incomplete claim — not their account, but the claim where someone hasn’t put in all of their information for the week — is deleted.”

That means the worker would need to restart their claim in the online portal.

The Oregon Legislature approved the paid leave program in 2019, but the pandemic and an outdated computer system pushed the program start date to 2023. Nearly all Oregon employees contribute, sending 0.6% of gross pay up to $132,900 in wages to the program. Organizations with more than 25 employees are required to pay 0.4% of each employee’s gross pay to the program unless the employer offers a similar program.

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