Rhode Island is First State to Guarantee Job Security for Family Leave
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND—Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the groundbreaking Temporary Caregiver Insurance law on Wednesday, officially making Rhode Island the third state in the nation to adopt a family leave insurance policy. Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) championed by Sen. Gayle Goldin and Rep. Elaine Coderre, ensures that workers can take up to four weeks of leave at two-thirds of their regular wages to care for an ailing family member or to bond with a new child. The law also sets a new standard in the movement to advance work-family protections by guaranteeing all workers job security when they need to take leave to care for a seriously ill family member or new child.
“In Rhode Island we value hard work and family. Temporary Caregiver Insurance lives up to those ideals,” said Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has long supported the bill. “I am proud to sign this bill on behalf of Rhode Island’s families and make our state a national leader in policies that support working families.”
The law will help workers like Tammy Russo of Coventry, whose son, Joey suffers from severe cognitive and physical disabilities. Tammy said: “Had this law been in place, I would not have worried if our family could make the bills and afford our mortgage, utilities, insurances, and food during my weeks away from work and my paycheck. By paying a few cents each week into the fund, my family would have had the financial help we needed. TCI is affordable and provides families like mine with peace of mind that helps get us through life’s biggest challenges.”
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 that includes AARP Rhode Island. 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.
“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. It is a win-win-win for workers, employers and the Rhode Island economy.”
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.
“The passage of Temporary Caregiver Insurance is a great victory for Rhode Island’s families and our economy,” said Senator Gayle Goldin, D-3, who championed the bill in the Senate. “This law keeps money in people’s pockets when they need it most and means no one will lose his or her job when dealing with a serious family crisis or welcoming a new child into their home.”
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 that New 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.
“Temporary Caregiver Insurance won’t cost my business anything,” 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.”
“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.”
“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
Visit www.WEcareRI.org for more information