State officials announced more details about the rollout a new program for paid family and sick leave Wednesday.
The program is expected to start in 2023 and will cover approximately 10,000 New Hampshire state employees, as well as private companies and individual workers who enroll.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Chris Sununu called it the “first of its kind in the country.” He contrasted it with programs in other states that require participation by some or all employers and are funded by payroll taxes.
“It’s a completely voluntary program,” he said. “Employers or employees can participate in the program if they wish.”
Administered by insurance company MetLife, the program covers up to 60% of a person’s wages while they take up to six weeks off to deal with a health problem, care for a sick family member, or care for a newborn .
Participating companies are entitled to a tax credit covering 50% of the costs. People who are self-employed or work for a company that does not join can register themselves. Their bonuses will be capped at $5 a week, officials said.
Businesses can enroll in December for coverage from January 1st. This will be followed by an open registration period for individuals early next year.
The policy passed as part of last year’s state budget. Sununu, a Republican, suggested it as an alternative to He vetoed democratic plans in 2019 and 2020 this would have required employers to provide paid leave.
Sununu has described the payroll deductions from these plans as “income tax.” Democrats dispute this characterization and have said a voluntary system would have fewer participants – and thus higher premiums – without being accessible to all employees.
On Wednesday, Sununu said adding state employees to the risk pool will help spread the cost, arguing that the program’s tax breaks would encourage companies to sign up. He said New Hampshire could become a model for other states.
“It’s not about creating a bigger insurance company run by the government,” he said. “Most states do it that way. We are not. We’re really doing this public-private partnership to get both the best cost and the most competition with the opportunities we’re trying to provide to families.”
Business and Industry Association President Mike Skelton, who appeared with Sununu on Wednesday, said the paid leave program will help businesses with their top priority — hiring enough workers.
“This is another tool in the toolbox for New Hampshire employers to attract and retain talent,” he said.