DENVER — A bill introduced in the Colorado Legislature Thursday would give Coloradans 12 weeks of paid leave.

SB-188, the Family Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Program, would cover numerous types of leave, ranging from care for newborns, receiving treatment for a major illness, leaving an abusive relationship or to help family members who are sick or dying.

The bill is set for its first public hearing on Mar. 13.

If passed, the state would administer the program in the same way it does unemployment insurance. 

And all employees -- full-time or part-time -- and employers would have to contribute to the program.

The program includes:

  • 12 weeks paid leave per year.
  • Benefits could not exceed $1,000 a week.
  • Cost $160 per/year for every $50,000 income.
  • Classified as a fee, not a tax.

Lower income workers will benefit more, as the benefits of the program cannot exceed $1,000 a week.

Each individual employee will pay $160 for every $50,000 in income. For example,workers who make $100,000 will pay $320 towards the program. Employers would then match what each employee must pay to make the program work.

The bill has failed four times at the statehouse in previous years due to concerns from Republicans and moderate Democrats about the way businesses could be impacted. But Democrats now hold the majority and do not need a single Republican vote to pass the bill.

Each employee would be paying roughly $3 a week for this plan. These payments would guarantee each worker a paid leave benefit that is a percentage of their weekly salary for 12 weeks.

Six states and the District of Columbia have passed paid family leave laws, with more then two dozen states expecting to debate similar bills within the upcoming year. 

Numerous workers are also caregivers, with only 17 percent of workers having access to paid time away from work, according to the Pew Research Center. 

The research center also shows that a third of all employees across the country have left a job at some point to provide caregiving, and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates the country lost $500 billion in economic activity each year because of not having a national paid leave policy. This cost can impact businesses as well, forcing them to find replacements for workers who leave due to caregiving situations.

Judith Márquez, Colorado senior organizer with 9to5 Colorado, the state’s leading advocate for working women, said their group is in favor of the bill.

“Many working Coloradans will, at some point, need to recover from a serious illness or surgery, care for a sick child or a new baby, or tend to an ill loved one. But there’s work and paychecks and bills," Márquez said. "For most working people, it’s nearly impossible to take time off from work and lose that paycheck to be a caregiver, but the alternative – going to work, leaving those who need you behind – is just as bad or worse. No one should have to choose between paying bills or caring for loved ones, between being an employee or a caregiver.”

In the past, business groups have opposed the bill, citing things like concern over the size of the program and the cost to implement it. Large business groups have also said it creates a one-size-fits-all strategy, rather than letting companies make their own policies.

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