Swain, Tully & Murphy Bill Expanding Temporary Disability and Family Leave Program Advanced by Assembly

In order to help families better financially prepare for disability and family leave, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Lisa Swain, Christopher Tully and Carol Murphy permitting individuals to submit temporary disability and family temporary disability leave claims prior to the commencement of leave was advanced by the General Assembly on Thursday with a vote of 77-0.

The bill (A-4118) states that an individual can submit leave claims up to 60 days prior to the commencement of leave if he or she knows in advance when the leave will commence. The measure requires the Division of Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to pay the benefit for such a claim upon the commencement of the leave.

“Currently, covered individuals often receive their benefit payments weeks after their leave has already begun which can cause financial hardship on families,” said Swain (D-Bergen/Passaic). “The goal of this bill is to prevent delays in payment by giving both employers and departments advanced notice of leave and ample time to issue benefits to employees.”

This bill may apply to leaves that include, but are not limited to:

· Periods of family temporary disability leave for care of a child of the individual after adoption or childbirth, scheduled medical procedures, treatments, or appointments for a family member of the individual, and scheduled ongoing care of a family member of the individual; and

· Periods of temporary disability leave related to pregnancy or childbirth, scheduled medical procedures, treatments, or appointments for the individual, and scheduled ongoing care of the individual.

“In many cases, individuals or families are unable to make ends meet without receiving their scheduled paychecks,” said Tully (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill improves processing and will allow individuals to responsibly prepare for their time away from work well in advance without the additional stress of waiting for their benefits to take effect.”

“What this bill does is expedite the process of beneficiaries receiving the funds they have been legally granted,” said Murphy (D-Burlington). “Many people can’t afford to go several weeks without a paycheck, and this will ensure that this doesn’t happen.

In addition to individuals covered under the state temporary disability insurance (TDI) and family leave insurance (FLI) programs up to 60 days prior to the beginning of leave, employers are required to, in no later than nine days following the notification of an anticipated period of leave, submit notices to both the individual and the division containing information to determine the individual’s eligibility for benefits.

For such claims, the division must process the claim immediately and, upon finding that the claim is valid, pay the benefit upon the commencement of leave or after any applicable one week waiting period. However, if the division receives the claim less than 30 days before the commencement of the leave, the division shall make the benefit payment not more than 30 days after the receipt of the claim. According to the bill, the TDI and FLI weekly benefit for claims submitted prior to the beginning of the leave is processed using the individual’s average weekly wage in relation to when the individual submits the claim for benefits.

Under the bill, if an individual did not establish enough base weeks or have enough total earnings during the 52 weeks preceding the week he or she submits a claim, the division must notify the individual that he may file the claim again upon or after the start of the leave to be reconsidered.