The new Paid Family and Medical Leave program at the state’s Employment Security Department (ESD) won the national State Chief Information Officer Special Recognition Award through the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).
The awards are given annually to honor innovation and excellence in the use of information technology in state government. This year, the NASCIO Awards Committee selected 10 award recipients, including Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program, from among 30 finalists and over 90 total award nominations.
“We are incredibly honored to receive this well-deserved award, as the team successfully brought this essential program online in only 30 months from bill signing to benefits,” said ESD Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “The program, shipped on-time and on-budget, experienced immediate high demand – demonstrating the need Washingtonians have to take critical time to care for themselves and their families in life’s most important and challenging times. The technology systems stood strong in the face of more than 10,000 people applying for benefits in the first two weeks alone!”
Since the launch of benefits on Jan. 1, 2020, Paid Family and Medical Leave has paid about $440 million to more than 72,000 Washingtonians. This far exceeded projections for 2020. Critical to that success was the technology. Not only did it hold up well, but the agile process used in its development meant ongoing and planned updates throughout the year have both added functionality and improved the customer experience.
“I want to congratulate Commissioner LeVine and her team for their innovative work in implementing information technology to launch the Paid Family and Medical Leave program,” said Jim Weaver, State Chief Information Officer and WaTech Director. “ESD used Agile values and principles to design, build and implement a new technology platform from the ground up. It is wonderful to see their accomplishments recognized at the national level!”
Washington state was the fifth to implement a full Paid Family and Medical Leave program in the United States, but the first to do so from the ground-up – meaning there was no existing temporary disability program to build on. This presented both a great opportunity and challenge as everything had to be developed from scratch, including the technology system. The program was implemented on-time and on-budget, with employers beginning to submit reports and pay premiums in 2019, and benefits becoming available for Washingtonians on Jan. 1, 2020.
You can learn more about the awards and recipients on the NASCIO website.