BOSTON (CBS) – When Ashley Camden had her first baby at the end of December, she thought the timing was perfect. Rose was born just a few days before Massachusetts’ new Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program started on January 1. Both she and her husband qualified and planned to take time off.
“We both get three months with the baby, our first kid. We were super-pumped,” she told WBZ-TV.
But while juggling the stresses of taking care of a newborn and trying enjoy their time together, the couple grew increasingly frustrated with the agency handling the leave payments.
“In the middle of applying, the person’s computer died, so I had to call back and apply all over again and it created a duplicate application, which they then flagged (as) fraudulent,” Ashley said laying out several other roadblocks including having to send in documents multiple times. “It was just a mess.”
The weeks ticked by and still no payments. The bills piled up while the savings whittled away.
“Thankfully we both have family that was able to help us out,” she said.
Caitlin Haskins was in a similar situation, spending much of her maternity leave trying to track down her benefits.
“I’ve got bills to pay. It’s infuriating,” she told WBZ.
The PFML program is largely funded by contributions made by either the employer or the employee themselves. Haskins contributed about $5,200 into the program.
“It’s like my money tied up there,” she said.
When we contacted the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development a spokesperson told WBZ:
• As the benefits program for Paid Family and Medical Leave launched January 1, DFML is continually improving the process and expediting the payment timeline.
• DFML is adding more employees to its call center and working to improve the customer service experience on a number of fronts.
• Benefits are not able to be sent until after a leave period has begun to verify that the leave commenced as planned, the claim is eligible, and the seven-day wait period has been satisfied.
Both Camden and Haskins eventually got their money. Camden’s came a week after her 12 weeks of covered leave was over.
“This is the last thing that you want to worry about right now when you are trying to enjoy the new things, the smiles and the milestones that are coming in this new time,” she said.
On July 1, thousands more Massachusetts residents will be eligible for this program to care for sick relatives.
For more information, visit the state’s website.