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Department of Labor takes first steps towards launching paid family leave program

Governor John Carney signs the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill.
Paul Kiefer
Delaware Public Media
Governor John Carney signs the Healthy Delaware Families Act in May 2020.

Delaware became the eleventh state to provide paid family leave in July, but benefits won’t be available for several years.

The state's Department of Labor took its first steps towards launching the program last month.

By 2026, Delaware workers will be eligible to receive up to $900 per week for twelve weeks under the state’s new paid family leave policy; that cap will increase alongside the consumer price index after 2027.

Secretary of Labor Karryl Hubbard says the four-year gap between passage of the bill this year and payment of the first benefits offers much-needed time to lay groundwork for the program.

“We’ve got a few years out before we start to pay benefits," she said, "but in the meantime, there’s a lot of work we need to do in terms of outreach to stakeholders, developing policies and procedures, training employers on how to approve claims.”

That process recently began with the hiring of a full-time paid family leave manager, but Hubbard says the project requires a larger group of dedicated staff to execute efficiently.

While most state agencies are struggling with high staff attrition, Hubbard says the pandemic may have provided an unexpected blessing for the Department of Labor: her agency plans to reassign temporary workers and contract staff hired to process pandemic unemployment insurance claims to help launch the paid family leave program.

“Because of all the staff we brought on to handle some of the unemployment insurance claims that were coming in and that we couldn’t handle with our regular staff," she said, "we almost have an embedded crew who could potentially segway into staff for Healthy Delaware Families.”

Businesses will begin contributing to the state’s paid family leave fund in 2025, though seasonal businesses and businesses with fewer than 10 employees are exempt.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.