I-Team Investigation: More issues with CT Paid Leave program

I-TEAM-INVESTIGATION: More issues with new CT paid leave program
Published: May. 13, 2022 at 7:35 PM EDT
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(WFSB) - Thursday night, the I-Team put the spotlight on some of the issues the brand-new paid leave program is having.

Since then, we’ve received more complaints.

The state has already seen nearly 40,000 applicants and not all of them have issues.

The family you’re about to meet is a perfect example of that.

One person applied and is getting benefits each week, no issues at all.

The other is struggling to get timely payments, showing that people can apply on the same date, live under the same roof, yet have completely contrasting experiences.

“I was stressed and I thought this Paid Family Medical Leave was supposed to relieve some stress,” said Rebecca Lester.

Navigating CT Paid Leave has not been easy for Lester.

She took time off work to care for her 72-year-old mother, who recently had surgery.

“I’m her caregiver, she’s not able to be left alone,” said Lester.

Lester submitted her documents and her mother’s application a day apart.

“Her first week out, she got approved and got her payment right away and she’s been getting it consistently,” Lester said.

It took three weeks before Rebecca would see her benefits.

She’s actually back at work and still waiting to collect in full.

“I’m wanting to see which one beats it. Will I get my first check at the end of the month from my company or will my Paid Family Leave come through?” Lester said.

“We’re not at a consistently good process for everyone,” said Erin Choquette, Chief Operating Officer of CT Paid Leave.

Thursday night, the I-Team sat down with Choquette, who told us the reasons behind delays were attributed to the omicron surge.

The program was inundated with applications as soon as it started.

“Our January numbers were actually 30% higher than we anticipated,” she said.

While CT Paid Leave is still catching up, the applicants are struggling.

Two we profiled last night dipped into their 401k.

“We had bills that were late and we’re a two-income household, but I feel that people who are out there on their own, if that’s what their main source of income is, how are they making it?” said Lester.

If you are an applicant in limbo, we have new answers for you.

If you got approved but are waiting for benefits, they should come weekly once the leave begins.

If your application is pending, you may have not filled out the paperwork completely, accurately and timely.

The state says this is the number one cause of delays.

If you got approved, got paid, but like Lester, are waiting for full payments, you may have done something to change your application.

You may need new documentation that would need to be reviewed before additional payments can get issued.

“If I had the vacation time, I probably wouldn’t have used Paid Leave,” said Lester.

In the meantime, officials say they are working on upgrading the technology and are continuing to train staff with the expectation that this will decrease some of the delays.

We can confirm, all three people featured Thursday night have been approved. One is still waiting for payment.

Q/A with CT Paid Leave Authority

Your Guide to Accessing CT Paid Leave Benefits - YouTube

-How many people have reached out to the Authority via the “Contact Us” page in the last 24 hours?

The Contact Us page has been up and running since September 2020 and is our source for customer service inquiries. We are continually processing inquiries from individuals, legislators, business owners, third party administrators, and payroll providers who have questions or require assistance with many aspects of the paid leave program, such as general questions about how the program works and requests for assistance with contribution remittance and with claims. We have not seen any spike in our normal inquiry volume in the past 24 hours (post May 12.)

-Is there a rough idea of how long the current backups may take to clear up? Much of the backup is caused by incomplete claims, which can not be reviewed and decided until all of the required documentation is received. Furthermore, incomplete or inconsistent documents can also delay the process and add to the backup. It is impossible to identify a time frame to clear the backup until claimants are consistently providing all of their documentation within the time frame provided. If a claimant is having difficulty getting any of their documents and requires a time extension, we simply need them to tell us and we will work with them to provide more time.

-For people who have been waiting longer than the standard 10-15 business days for applications to be approved, is there another timeframe they should expect? The main cause of delays in claim processing is incomplete or inaccurate documentation to support the claim. We cannot begin to assess the case and make a claim decision until the case file is complete, meaning that all of the documentation has been submitted and has been filled out accurately and entirely. In the majority of cases where claimants are experiencing delays, we find that documents are missing, incomplete, or inconsistent. In some instances, the missing documents may be the Employment Verification Form, which the employee’s employer must fill out and return, or, in the cases of medical leave, the medical certification form that the healthcare provider must fill out, so we urge the applicants to follow up with their employers and healthcare providers to ensure that these documents are completed and returned. For this reason, we urge all claimants to create an account at ctpaidleave.org so that they have access to the online case portal and can review their documents and upload anything that is missing.  When a case has all documents  submitted completely and consistently, the average turnaround time for a claim decision is currently 10 business days.

-For people who have been approved, but have not received benefits, is there a rough estimate as to when they should expect to receive their funds? For approved claims, where all documentation has been received and confirmed benefits are paid on a weekly basis. If an individual’s claim has been approved but their leave has not yet started, they will not receive any payments until their leave begins.  In the event that an individual’s leave has already begun when their claim is approved, the past due benefits will be issued immediately and they will then receive payments moving forward on a weekly basis.

-For people who have been approved and have received partial funds, is there an idea as to when they may get their full Paid Leave benefits? If a person’s leave has already started when they are approved, they will receive a payment for the retroactive amount due and will then receive weekly payments for the duration of their leave. Alternatively, if an individual has an approved claim but there was then a change to their leave, such as an extension of their leave duration, we would require additional documentation to substantiate the change. This would essentially create a new case which would need to be reviewed and approved before the additional payments could be issued.