Hank Investigates: Slow payments from MA paid family medical leave program

BOSTON (WHDH) - A new Massachusetts program promises workers paid time off from their jobs for family and medical reasons. But viewers tell 7 Investigates instead they were left scrambling for money. Hank Investigates

Christina cherishes every moment with her new baby daughter.

Nadia wowed everyone when she was born with a full head of hair.

“She’s just the sweetest little thing,” Christina says.

Christina was one of the first moms in Massachusetts to be approved for the state’s brand-new Paid Family and Medical Leave program.

It allows workers with a new baby or an illness to take paid leave.

After Christina’s regular maternity leave, she could take 12 more weeks off and get paid 70 percent of her salary.

“I was overjoyed,” Christina says.

The state’s program is more worker-friendly than the federal program commonly known as FMLA.

Under the Massachusetts program, most workers are eligible, and they get paid up to 850-dollars a week.

Many people aren’t eligible for FMLA and if they are their leave is often unpaid.

“I thought it was incredible,” Christina says.

Where does the money come from?

The program is funded by a payroll tax on employees and employers.

If you don’t see that deduction on your paycheck, you may still be eligible, some employers cover their employees’ share of the cost.

Christina’s approval letter said she should get her first payment “14 calendar days after the start of your leave.”

But for more than 40 days no money came.

“How do you feel about how well they kept that promise to you?” Hank asked.

“Oh, not at all. It was just so discouraging,” Christina says.

Panicked she and her husband had to borrow money to pay for food, diapers and the mortgage.

“It’s kind of soul-crushing,” Christina says.

Other families say the state’s new program is leaving them desperate for money too.

This Facebook page is filled with comments like:

“It has been seven weeks and I have not been paid a cent.”

“I am starting to panic. I can’t believe this.”

“I’m shocked and disgusted that I’m not the only one not having received payments on time!”

“It was just very stressful,” Teri says.

Teri struggles to walk after suffering from a sudden neurological issue. After she used up all her paid time off from work, she was approved to take medical leave under the state program.

But her payments didn’t come either.

She called the state again and again.

“I was told it was going to be mailed and then I was told it was going to be direct deposited and then I was told it was mailed again. It went back and forth between direct deposit and mail,” Teri says.

“Did either of those happen?” Hank asked.

“No,” Teri says.

Teri and her husband struggled to pay their bills and had to dip into their savings.

“The public needs to be made aware of how horrible this was being run,” Teri says.

After we started asking questions Christina and Teri started getting their money, almost two months after their leave started.

“It was really, really frustrating,” Christina says.

“It was torture. It was torture,” Teri says.

Officials say they are working to get benefits paid in a more timely manner.

For more information about the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave or what benefits your company is required to provide, click here.

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