COVID Relief & Recovery Fund Impact: Paid Family Leave


Engaged Philanthropy Team
February 4, 2021

Thanks to The Denver Foundation’s donor support through the COVID Recovery & Resilience Fund to Together Colorado in 2020,  Colorado became the first state to pass paid family and medical leave through a ballot measure.

The grant was made to Rise Up Colorado and managed by one of its constituent members, Together Colorado. Rise Up Colorado is an “alignment table” of 10 organizations – 9to5 Colorado, Colorado Education Association, Colorado People’s Alliance, Colorado Wins, Colorado Working Families Party, Colorado AFL-CIO, Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, SEIU Local 105, Together Colorado, and United for a New Economy – organizing to create a state where all of us can thrive regardless of what we look like, where we live, or what’s in our wallets, no exceptions.

9to5 Colorado, having led the Paid Family and Medical Leave campaign at the Colorado legislature for the past six years, eventually worked with a powerful alliance of grassroots organizations – Rise Up Colorado – to successfully move the question to the ballot in 2020, and win!

Prior to the election, the vast majority of people without paid leave were women who earn low wages, and people from BIPOC communities who work in the service sectors, which offer no such benefits. Proposition 118, the Paid Medical and Family Leave measure, creates an insurance program so that workers can take time off without losing pay or their jobs to care for themselves, a new child, or a seriously ill family member. 

Facts about Proposition 118:

  • Will give Colorado workers access to up to 12 weeks of leave (plus an additional 4 weeks for qualifying pregnancy or childbirth complications)
  • Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from paying employer premium
  • Employers and employees each pay a fee of .45% of the employee’s wage. Employers can choose to pay up to 100%
  • Companies offering private plans that meet minimum requirements can opt-out of the program
  • Premiums are delayed by more than two years to allow for economic recovery and begin in January 2023
  • Reflects the recommendations of Colorado’s paid leave Task Force, which determined a publicly administered model is solvent and affordable
“More than 2.6 million people would benefit under this policy that gives Coloradans a chance to put their families first”

“More than 2.6 million people would benefit under this policy that gives Coloradans a chance to put their families first, and which will make our communities, our businesses, and our economy stronger,” said Rev. Dr. Timothy Tyler, one of the supporters of the ballot initiative. “More than ever in these days of a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and a racial crisis in our country, people in our communities must feel a sense of security and know that if they fall, there is a net that will catch them. A strong paid family and medical leave policy like this one is good for business, good for employees, and was the right thing to do.”

Katharine Knarreborg, President of Merlin Instrument Company, an engineering and manufacturing business, said “In my industry, I am competing with large, multinational corporations for highly skilled assemblers and engineers and I’ve found that strong benefits packages that include things like paid family and medical leave are often what helps people decide which job to choose. But self-insuring to provide this benefit is expensive, hard to navigate, and generally not feasible with a small staff like mine. When this policy passes in November, I will be able to provide a much stronger benefit for my employees which will help save me money in the long run. And, most importantly, it will cover much more than I’m offering already by adding family leave, not just medical or disability protection.”

Learn more about The Denver Foundation’s COVID Recovery & Resilience work here.