Report shows CT Paid Leave program continues to deny nearly one-third of claims
An investigation by The Accountability Projectfound the state denied roughly one-third of all claims for benefits, largely due to missing documentation. A new report out shows those problems are continuing at CT's Paid Leave Authority.
After a bumpy rollout, the state's paid leave program remains challenging for many workers to navigate, though administrators say they're hopeful it will be easier in the months ahead.
The Connecticut Paid Leave Authority released its 2023 annual report on Tuesday, describing the paid leave program's activities during the preceding 12 months.
The program allows new parents, caregivers, people recovering from illness and other qualifying employees to receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave.
Connecticut was among the first states to create such a program, but its early months in operation came with some confusion and frustration for workers.
An investigation by The Accountability Projectfound the state denied roughly one-third of all claims for benefits, largely due to missing documentation. Workers who spoke with Connecticut Public described a difficult application process, leading to delays in getting paid.
In its latest report, the Paid Leave Authority described similar trends in recent months but pointed to process improvements that should lead to fewer denials in the future.
The program denied about 30% of claims for paid leave benefits during the most recent 12-month period, ending in May 2023. That's down slightly from 32% in the program's first full year paying out claims, stretching from January to December 2022.
Over the last several months, the authority has also rolled out changes to the program including updating the online claims portal and creating a document dashboard, making it easier for applicants to submit required documents.
The authority also simplified the process for expectant parents, combining the pregnancy and bonding leave into one claim instead of two separate ones, as it was previously.
The Accountability Project reported in February that many applicants experienced confusion when applying for leave from not knowing what forms were required to not understanding how the pregnancy leave worked.
Connecticut Paid Leave Authority CEO Erin Choquette said on Tuesday these updates should improve the application process.
"That being said, there's still almost 50% who didn't provide any documents upfront," Choquette said, describing the ongoing challenge of communicating to applicants which paperwork is required.
"So, to me, that's not a confusion issue, or at least not a confusion about the process," she continued. "That's understanding that the Connecticut Paid Leave program does require proof of your serious health condition or other condition."
Choquette said there is a process for denied applications to be reconsidered, and many people have had their denial reversed once the proper paperwork is provided.
"We're continuing to make sure that basic understanding is there so people do read the emails, read the texts, read the messages that we send to them so that they know they have to provide those documents," Choquette said.
Aflac has a contract with the Paid Leave Authority to administer claims. In an email, they told Connecticut Public they are proud of the service they provided in 2022 and 2023 and they continue to identify opportunities for improvement.
According to the report, claims were decided an average of 4.1 days after all necessary documents were submitted. The average approved leave duration was about seven weeks.
The Connecticut paid leave program started accepting applications in December 2021. So far they've paid out $375 million.