Behind the State of Connecticut’s Efforts to Implement Paid Family Leave

In 2019, Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation to provide paid family and medical leave insurance for individuals. At Salesforce’s Public Sector Transformation Summit, Connecticut Paid Family Leave Authority Acting Chief Operating Officer Kris Floyd explained how the state launched a successful family leave program.

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Employees across the U.S. face an impossible decision: Take time off without pay to care for a sick family member or continue working to receive a continuous source of income. It’s a Catch-22: If they take time off from work, they can care for their sick family member, but may not be able to stay afloat financially. If they continue working, they will be able to pay the bills, but may not have time to provide needed care.

It’s a decision no American should have to make. And yet, fewer than 20% of U.S. citizens have access to paid family and medical leave benefits. 

Some states are on a mission to change that. On June 25, 2019, Connecticut lawmakers passed legislation to provide paid family and medical leave insurance for individuals, so they don’t have to choose between their income and their family’s health. 

Kris Floyd has been a part of these efforts from the start. As the acting chief operating officer for the Connecticut Paid Family Leave Authority, she has worked tirelessly over the past year to launch a brand-new agency responsible for creating and managing paid family leave processes and systems across the state. Not to mention, this all happened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our CEO started last March and was in our state agency office in Hartford, Connecticut. And within two days, everyone was sent home … All of our teams that are partnering with us to develop all of these capabilities, we are completely working remotely. We've all had to be very innovative,” Floyd said during a session at the Salesforce Public Sector Transformation Summit. 

Despite the circumstances, Floyd and her colleagues have seen a number of early successes. As of April, CPFLA had registered more than 110,000 Connecticut businesses to become part of the program. That means their employees can apply for paid leave benefits as early as Jan. 1, 2022. 

Building Trust Among Partners and Constituents 

When it came time to launch CPFLA, education and awareness were critical to success. 

“We knew that many businesses, health care providers [and] employees did not know or understand about family medical leave or paid family medical leave,” Floyd said. “And so our strategy was to really think about what are all the different types of relationships and partnerships that we should really reach out to and help educate about what this program is and what it means to them.” 

CPFLA hosted more than 160 webinars educating various audiences about paid family leave and collaborated with public libraries, chambers of commerce and trade organizations to help get the word out. 

Health organizations, especially those with an emphasis on women’s health issues, proved to be worthy allies in this effort, too. 

“Part of this statute allows people to have paid leave benefits if they are victims of family violence,” Floyd explained. “And so we found the organizations that support women and families around domestic violence and shared the information with them.” 

A Human-centered Strategy 

For Floyd and her team, the successful launch of CPFLA required a clear understanding of constituent needs. 

“For outreach and engagement, we really had to step back and say, how do we need to educate our audiences? Who are the audiences? And what is the best way to get information to them about the program?” Floyd said. 

Of course, social media was a critical part of CPFLA’s outreach strategy, especially as many Connecticut residents continued to telework. The organization had initially considered investing in billboard advertising, but with fewer people out and about during COVID-19, CPFLA shifted its focus to ad spots most accessible to people during the pandemic. Now that the vaccine has been widely distributed across the country and people are beginning to travel again, Floyd and her team are reconsidering the billboard marketing approach. 

Beyond strategic marketing initiatives, the organization has employed new ways to gather citizen feedback and iterate based on their responses. Through focus groups and listening tours, CPFLA has gleaned continuous insights and added a human element to the process.

“They tell us very, very meaningfully if they had paid these benefits, they would be able to go with their mother, their child … to be there in appointments that need someone as a caregiver and not have to worry about not being compensated while they're away,” Floyd said. “So many people have let us know how important this is and how it'll allow them to take care of family members in such a meaningful way, and then still be able to meet their daily needs.”

Floyd hopes other states will be able to replicate these best practices, too. Her advice? Prioritize transparency and communicate with partners and constituents early and often.   

It’s all about “being tenacious and sharing information on an ongoing basis, and then keep pushing forward even during a pandemic,” she said. 

Learn more by checking out the full session here.

This content is made possible by our sponsor, Salesforce. The editorial staff was not involved in its preparation. 

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