Labor Dept. hires division head to oversee family leave rollout
WILMINGTON — With the rollout of the state’s paid family and medical leave law on the horizon, the Delaware Department of Labor has hired Chris Counihan as its first manager of the program.
Counihan joined the DOL in late August as the Family Medical Leave Act implementation manager, and will be tasked with setting up the unemployment insurance program between now and Jan. 1, 2025. In a previous role, he served as a legislative aide to the New Castle County Council, where he worked on policy research and initiatives.
In the next three years, he will be working on regulatory language to guide the program, as well as research and development of administrative systems to manage it. He will report directly to Delaware Labor Secretary Karryl Hubbard.
“We are pleased and excited to have Chris join us to help DOL implement such a consequential piece of legislation that will affect so many Delawareans,” Hubbard said in a statement. “His expertise in data analysis and insurance underwriting will be invaluable in building out a benefits program that will help so many Delawareans.”
In May, Gov. John Carney signed SB 1 to make Delaware the 11th state to offer a statewide family and medical leave program. Now known as the Healthy Delaware Families Act, employees will be able to receive 12 weeks paid parental leave and six weeks of medical and caregiving leave. Under the state social insurance program, eligible Delaware workers will receive up to 80% of their average weekly wages or up to $900.
Employees could access unemployment insurance by January 2026.
Counihan will oversee a newly established division with between 35 to 60 employees by 2026. The department is currently listing for as many as seven positions at this time, focusing on key areas of enrollment finances and regulations.
The department expects to be collecting premium payments by 2024, at which time the the employees in the newly-created decision will grow, according to DOL spokesman Alejando Bodipo-Memba. The division is expected to be fully staffed by 2025.
Counihan expects to learn from some of the more successful state programs in the mid-Atlantic region, like Maryland, Virginia and D.C..
“As an early adopter of PFML coverage, the state of Delaware will benefit from the experience of states that already offer this coverage,” said Counihan in a prepared statement. “Our aim is to make the implementation of this coverage as smooth as possible for the thousands of employers and hundreds of thousands of employees who will benefit from this program.”