In the Midst of the Pandemic, Colorado Vote Could Change Prospects for National Action

The current COVID-19 crisis has underscored just how vulnerable most Americans are, and how little access we have to paid leave. While nearly everyone at some point in their lives will need care for themselves, a new child, or a seriously ill family member, the vast majority of workers in the United States still do not have access to paid family and medical leave.

In Colorado, where 80% of the state’s residents don’t have access to paid leave, voters are on the verge of doing something about it with assistance from The Fairness Project and grassroots organizations.

“The last thing anyone should worry about during a pandemic is how they are going to pay the rent or put food on the table when a family member gets sick,” said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project.

“We talk a lot about supporting families in this country. It’s time to move beyond the talk, and actually do something about it. Colorado has the chance to become a model for the rest of the country in a moment when it really matters.”

In addition to providing paid family and medical leave to 2.6 million people in their state, Coloradans have the chance to provide a huge momentum boost for advocates that want to expand the policy nationally.

Workers without access to paid family and medical leave are disproportionately women, people of color, and those working in lower-wage jobs. These workers are the most likely to lose their jobs or income due to unforeseen medical and family emergencies.

The Fairness Project most recently helped voters make Medicaid expansion a right in Oklahoma and Missouri. A constitutional amendment was approved by voters in the two states this summer to provide access to health care that politicians can’t take away. The campaigns were part of a multi-year strategy by The Fairness Project that led to six red and purple states expanding Medicaid. The organization has also passed minimum wage and paid sick leave ballot measures across the country.

Colorado Proposition 118 would establish a paid family and medical leave program that includes up to 12 weeks of paid leave. Financially, this low-cost insurance program would be shared between employee and employer contributions while smaller businesses with less than 10 employees pay nothing but their employees still receive the benefit.