RHODE ISLAND PASSES GROUNDBREAKING TEMPORARY CAREGIVER INSURANCE LAW
Landmark Law Strengthens Economic Security for Rhode Island Families
AARP Rhode Island, a strong advoate for TCI, Applauds the Work of Many
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND—With a vote of 53 to 18, the House of Representatives passed the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Bill (HB 5889, SB 231) on Tuesday, bringing Rhode Island one step closer to adopting a paid family leave program, and becoming the third state in the country to offer affordable family leave. Sponsored in the Senate by Senator Gayle Goldin and in the House by Representative Elaine Coderre, the bill cleared the Senate on Thursday, June 27. The amended bill was approved by the Senate and awaits the signature of Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has already expressed his support.
The law will help workers like Renay Brooks-Omisore, whose son, a police officer and father of two, suffered severe brain trauma when a driver hit his motorcycle in 2011. Renay recalls the moment she had to leave her son in the hospital: “I remember telling my son, ‘I have to leave you now because I have to go to work, but we’ll be back here in a couple of days because you know we love you.’ With TCI in place, no mother or father will have to say that. Because I tell you, it’s one of the hardest things to say to your family member as you hold their hand.”
The Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) bill would be the first law of its kind in the U.S. to protect the job security of all employees needing to take leave for a new child or to care for a seriously ill family member or personal illness. The bill will ensure that workers can take up to four weeks of paid leave to be with their families and that their jobs will be protected during that time.
“We commend the Rhode Island state legislature on standing up for Rhode Island’s families by passing Temporary Caregiver Insurance, which will strengthen the foundation of our economy by helping families stay afloat when they need it most,” said Marcia Coné, CEO of the Women’s Fund for Rhode Island. “Our workforce has changed and our economy has changed. Temporary Caregiver Insurance will enable working people to care for their children, their parents, their loved ones, without fear of falling behind on their bills or losing their jobs.”
TCI was supported in the legislature by WE Care for Rhode Island, a broad-based coalition of workers, local business owners, economists, healthcare providers and healthcare and family advocates. Rhode Island’s TCI bill also caught the attention of several national business associations—Main Street Alliance, the American Sustainable Business Council, the Small Business Majority, and the US Women’s Chamber of Commerce—all of which urged the State Legislature to pass it.
“Temporary Caregiver Insurance won’t cost my business anything whatsoever,” said Ann-Marie Harrington, President of Embolden, a digital media firm in Pawtucket. “It’s only on a rare occasion when an employee is out for a week or two caring for a very sick family member. Employees will want and need to be back at work to meet their long-term financial obligations because they would only receive a fraction of their full salary through TCI.”
TCI builds off of Rhode Island’s existing successful Temporary Disability Insurance program (in existence since 1942, the nation’s first) and extends replacement income to workers who need to take time off to care for a new child or a seriously ill loved one. The program is revenue neutral, funded solely through employee contributions, which amount to about 64 cents a week for workers earning $40,060 a year. These pooled payments provide replacement income to keep families afloat—and off of public assistance—during the time they are caring for family members. The program will strengthen economic security for working families by ensuring that workers do not lose critical income or their jobs when they need to take leave to tend to family health matters.
“Temporary Caregiver Insurance is one of those rare policies where everybody benefits,” said Rep. Elaine Coderre, D-60. “In an economy where too many people are struggling to cover the basics, TCI will ensure that a new baby or a health crisis does not become a financial crisis for our working families.”
More than 70 percent of children in Rhode Island live in families with all parents working, so loss of income for a primary breadwinner and caregiver has significant economic consequences for the whole family. Many families cannot afford to have one parent miss work to care for a family member, and studies show that a significant number of bankruptcies happen after a worker misses two of more weeks of work due to illness.
Similar paid family leave insurance programs in California and New Jersey have proven popular among business owners. A 2011 study of California’s family leave insurance (FMLI) program estimated savings for employers at $89 million a year. The program has been easy to implement and most California employers coordinate their own benefits with the state’s FMLI program. A recent Rutgers study shows thatNew Jersey’s FMLI program has reduced costs by decreasing turnover and improving productivity. By offering workers job protection, Rhode Island’s TCI bill will help increase employee retention and keep working people in their jobs.
Drafted with the input of local small business owners and business leaders, Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance contains special protections that reflect the needs of small business owners. For example, the leave must also be approved by a licensed health care provider, who must estimate the amount of time the employee will be out.
“The passage of Temporary Caregiver Insurance is a great victory for Rhode Island’s families and economy,” said Senator Gayle Goldin, D-3, who championed the bill in the Senate. “The passage of Temporary Caregiver Insurance means that no Rhode Island worker will need to choose between caring for a loved one in need and their family’s financial stability. Welcoming a new baby, or caring for an ill family member will no longer push people into poverty.”
“Rhode Island’s passage of Temporary Caregiver Insurance is a major victory for working families, who will no longer have to sacrifice their economic security to care for a new baby or a seriously ill loved one. With this vote, Rhode Island joins California and New Jersey in leading the nation towards policies that value families and reflect the needs of our modern workforce and economy,” said Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values at Work, the national network of coalitions fighting to advance fair work-family policies and the city and state level. “This victory adds fuel to the growing nationwide movement for policies like family leave insurance and paid sick days, and shows that progress can and does come from hardworking people speaking up for their families, their communities, and their jobs. We urge Congress to pass the State Paid Leave Fund so that more states can create insurance programs as we work to pass federal legislation that will cover everyone.”
We Care Rhode Island Coalition
AARP; RI Kids Count; Act II; Adoption Rhode Island; Alzheimer’s Association–RI; American Academy of Pediatrics – RI; Capital Good Fund; Checkmate Consulting Group LLC; Economic Progress Institute; Embolden; Fitness Together; Gold International Machinery; Happy Babies Healthy Moms; LNA Laser Technology; National Council of Jewish Women; National Association of Social Workers; Neighborhood Health Plan; NoMy Style; Ocean State Action; Older Women’s Policy Group; RCM Cleaning LLC; RI NOW; RIPIN; RI State Nurses Association; Savory Grape; SEIU 1199; Senior Agenda Coalition; Small Business Majority; Thurlow Small Architecture; Unite Here; URI Work-Life Committee; Women’s Fund of RI