TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner establishing new standards for timely payments of temporary disability insurance and family temporary disability benefits cleared the Senate Labor Committee today.
This legislation will help to improve the efficiency of the temporary disability and family leave insurance determination process.
“My office routinely receives complaints from constituents whose disability and family leave benefits have been delayed 4 weeks or more as they wait for a determination to be made concerning their eligibility,” said Senator Turner. “Disability and family leave is less than a worker’s regular income, and most workers only choose to go on disability or family leave because they have no other choice when fighting an illness or recovering from an injury. The significant delay in approving benefits is a hardship, and it makes an already difficult time more stressful. The state is telling residents to wait, but their bills will not.”
The legislation, S-2561, requires the division to implement goals for the timely determination and payment of TDI and FLI benefits. For TDI benefit claims, the goals specified by the bill set minimum percentages of initial claims to be completed within specified time spans as follows: 25 percent within seven days, 65 percent within 14 days, 75 percent within 21 days, and 85 percent within 28 days. For FLI benefit claims, the goals specified by the bill set the minimum percentages at 50 percent within seven days, 75 percent within 14 days, 85 percent within 21 days, and 95 percent within 28 days.
The legislation also expressly applies existing penalties of the TDI law to employers who fail to provide the notifications and disclosures at the time and in the manner required by the TDI and FLI laws to employees, claimants, and program administrators. In addition, if the failure results in a delay in benefit payments, the employer is also required to pay the claimant an added amount equal to the benefits due from the time that the notification or disclosure was required until the benefit payments commence.
Finally, the legislation requires the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development to issue an in-depth annual report regarding efforts to attain those goals. The report will help the legislature analyze the challenges that the Department of Labor and Workforce Development faces when reviewing claims and also assist with making the programs more effective in the future.
“Our residents have a reasonable expectation that temporary disability and family leave insurance funds will be available to carry them through a difficult time,” said Senator Turner. “These are funds that workers pay into themselves, and they should not have to experience such bureaucracy to access those benefits when they need them. This legislation will help to cut through the red tape to help residents get the benefits they need at a time when they need them most.”
S-2561 cleared the committee 5-0 and will next head to the full Senate for further consideration.