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Gov. Eric Greitens announced in late May that he would resign after facing months of political and legal scandals.The saga started in January, when KMOV released a recording of a woman saying Greitens took a compromising photo of her during a sexual encounter and threatened to blackmail her.A St. Louis grand jury indicted Greitens in February on felony invasion of privacy. The woman testified to lawmakers that Greitens sexually and physically abused her, spurring bipartisan calls for his resignation or impeachment.The invasion of privacy charge was eventually dropped by St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s office following a series of prosecutorial missteps before the trial began. Greitens was also accused of illegally obtaining a donor list from the veterans non-profit he co-founded with his political campaign, but that charge, too, was dismissed as part a deal that led to his resignation as governor.

On the Trail: As paid leave catches on in Missouri agencies, lawmakers wonder about cost

Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End. 2016
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Eric and Sheena Greitens hold their sons, Joshua and Jacob, while speaking to reporters after casting their ballots the St. Louis Public Library in the Central West End on November 8, 2016.

Updated at 5 p.m. Friday with more data from state agencies: At least 580 Missouri state government employees have taken advantage of paid family leave since Gov. Eric Greitens’ executive order in March.

While some state lawmakers are glad the benefit is available, they worry about what it’s costing the state.

Greitens’ executive order allows some state workers to get up to six weeks paid time off after the birth or adoption of the child. But the order only applies to “executive agencies” run by gubernatorial appointees. However, one agency not controlled by the governor, the Missouri Department of Transportation, chose to offer its employees paid leave as well.

St. Louis Public Radio asked 12 state agencies how many employees had applied for paid leave and how much the benefit cost. Based on data from those  departments that provided information by Friday afternoon,, at least 580 state employees have applied.

The state's Department of Corrections (130), Department of Social Services (96) and Department of Mental Health (95) saw the most paid leave applications. The Department of Natural Resources (10), the Department of Insurance and Financial Institutions and Professional Registration (9) Department of Economic Development (7) and the Department of Agriculture (6) saw paid leave used less often.

Wendy Doyle is the president and CEO of the Women’s Foundation, which has advocated for paid family leave. She said she’s pleasantly surprised by how many state workers took advantage of the benefit.

“We really see this an opportunity to help further and spur economic development — and help support the economy … in Missouri,” Doyle said. “By offering this, it keeps the employees retained. And the costs to hire a new employee is extremely expensive to an organization.”

Cost of benefit

Most of the agencies that responded said paid leave hasn’t cost money, because they didn’t hire temporary workers to cover for somebody who takes time off.  

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Credit File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he's concerned about what paid leave will ultimately cost the state.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said that approach won’t be possible in every circumstance, offering examples of a prison or a mental health facility employee.

“I think if we’d been allowed to weigh in on this, maybe we would have had it a little more clearly defined before the executive order went out,” Brown said. “Just dealing with the departments that have a critical number of people that have to be on staff at a time, and a lot of those people, you have to realize, are younger people that are of childbearing years.”

Budget officials estimated this year that paid leave would cost around $1.1 million, which Brown said “seems extremely low to me.”

A better approach, according to Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp of Creve Coeur, said would involve employees contributing a small amount of their paychecks into a statewide pool to help pay for the time off.

While Schupp said she also wants more information about the total cost of paid leave, she added it’s “great news” how many people benefited from Greitens’ decision.

“We, as legislators who serve and go to Jefferson City, will be able to have access to some of these people to talk to them and say ‘tell me what this has meant to you and your family in your life, if there’s any question about it,’” said Schupp, who supports the practice.

On the Trail, a weekly column, weaves together some of the intriguing threads from the world of Missouri politics.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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