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Opinion: Vote ‘yes’ on paid leave to support small businesses

Jessi Burg
Small-business owner

In Colorado, we pride ourselves on our small-business economy. We love to shop small, spend money with our neighbors and eat in local restaurants. That’s part of what makes having a small business in Colorado so rewarding, especially as a female business owner in a male-dominated industry.

But buying local is just one way to support your community businesses; another way is to pass policies that support small employers and new ventures. That’s why I’ll be voting “yes” on Proposition 118, which would create a paid family and medical leave fund that all Colorado businesses can access. 

The policy in Proposition 118 is good for my business. It helps me with staff retention so I can focus on growing my company. We’ve been in business for four years, and now that we’re turning a steady profit, we need to find ways to keep talented and dedicated employees. One way to do that is by offering good benefits, like paid family and medical leave. Right now, I can’t offer paid leave because small businesses like mine, with just a handful of employees, are shut out of expensive programs that require you to have a minimum number of enrolled employees.

Proposition 118 makes paid leave affordable and takes the burden off me to figure out how to provide this crucial benefit, so that instead of finding brokers and filing claims, I can invest my time into my business. It also helps me compete with larger companies that can afford to entice workers with better leave policies. 

Any prudent business owner knows that at some point, everyone will need to take time off work to care for themselves or a seriously ill loved one. At my gardening business, we work hard to make sure that if someone needs to take time off, they can. We would want that for ourselves and our employees, but when our seasonal employees don’t work, they don’t get paid. The gardening industry, like many home services, is not a highly paid profession, and it’s often hard for my workers to adequately save for an emergency. Proposition 118 would give my employees the economic stability to face a health or family challenge head on, without having to worry about financial ruin as a result. 

Like any small business, I run on a tight margin, and I want to make sure my money is well spent. My employees would pay less than $3 per week for access to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for themselves, a newborn or a seriously ill loved one. Since I own a small business, Proposition 118 exempts me from paying the employer’s share. In essence, this policy costs less than the cellphone reimbursement I currently give my workers and provides a much-needed benefit for them. When my employees and I discussed this ballot initiative, we agreed unanimously: That’s a very reasonable price to pay for this kind of protection. Knowing they have a job to go back to makes people stay with their employer, instead of quitting and looking for a new job post emergency. This stability improves overall productivity and reduces employee stress levels, which is extremely important to overall employee health. 

In Colorado, we make our voice heard with our wallets and our votes. So buy local, shop small and vote “yes” on Proposition 118. It’s this type of support that helps small or new businesses become viable, sustainable and successful in the long run.

Jessi Burg is a small-business owner in the Denver Metro area. 


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