AARP AARP States Rhode Island Caregiving

TCI Expansion Must Work for Minimum-Wage Caregivers

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PROVIDENCE, MAY 24, 2021 – AARP Rhode Island today called on the Senate to take action that will allow minimum-wage and low-income workers benefit more practically from Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) -- the state’s paid family leave program that supports family caregivers.

Senate Bill 688, which AARP commends, would extend coverage to eight weeks. However, Rhode Islanders in lower-paying jobs simply cannot makes ends meet on the current benefit of 60% of their wages. AARP Rhode Island encourages a compromise with bill S436 that would increase the benefit rate from the current 60% of wages to 90% in 2022 for those earning minimum wage and to 75% in 2022 for those earning twice the minimum wage.

 In a letter to Senate leaders, AARP State Director Catherine Taylor and State President Phil Zarlengo pointed out that, “Rhode Island minimum wage, while increasing in the near future, is currently $11.50 an hour. This means Rhode Islanders who earn minimum wage and are forced to utilize TCI/TDI will have to support their family on $6.90 an hour. Lower income families simply can’t afford to have their wages cut by 40%, even for a few weeks.

“RI Kids Count data shows that workers with the lowest incomes, less than $20,000 per year, are least likely to access and use paid leave in Rhode Island,” they added. “In 2017, these workers made up the largest share of those contributing to the TDI/TCI fund, yet they were the smallest share of workers to collect benefits and are the only group to experience this trend.

AARP, while commending lawmakers for wanting to improve this vital program, believes any increase in weeks without an increased rate benefit for low-income families will not go far enough to make a difference.

Below is the full text of the letter to Senators Ruggerio, McCaffrey, Algiere, Goodwin, Gallo, de la Cruz, Quezada, Ciccone, Goldin, Lawson:

 
AARP RI, on behalf of its 132,000 members in Rhode Island, commends the Senate Labor Committee for recommending passage of Senate Bill 688, a bill sponsored by Senator Lawson that would increase Rhode Island’s temporary caregiver benefits program (also known as Paid Family Leave) to 8 weeks by 2023. S 688 is an important piece of legislation that would help to once again make Rhode Island a leader in providing security for workers and their families.

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While any expansion of TCI is a good thing, we feel that solely expanding the weeks without a meaningful expansion of benefit rates for lower income or fixed income families will prevent many Rhode Islanders from participating in the program. Family caregivers are the front line of defense to keep their loved ones out of hospitals or nursing homes.

We ask you to please review and consider additional TCI enhancements that have been introduced this session so that the program would be accessible to all Rhode Islanders. A compromise between S 688 and Senator Goldin’s S 436 would be beneficial to all Rhode Islanders for the following reasons…

1.      S 436 would increase the benefit rate from the current 60% of wages to 90% in 2022 for those earning minimum wage and to 75% in 2022 for those earning twice the minimum wage. This is greatly needed in our state. Rhode Island minimum wage, while increasing in the near future, is currently $11.50 an hour. This means Rhode Islanders who earn minimum wage and are forced to utilize TCI/TDI will have to support their family on $6.90 an hour. Lower income families simply can’t afford to have their wages cut by 40%, even for a few weeks.

No Rhode Islander should have to decide between caring for a loved one and making enough money to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Lower income families will not be able to take advantage of additional weeks if the benefit rate is not increased. These families simply cannot afford to take advantage of this enhancement without putting their financial standing in jeopardy.

2.      S 436 would also expand the category of who a worker can take time to care for to include: grandchildren, siblings, and care recipients. COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and support each other. Having to alter life to care for loved ones is more commonplace than ever. Expand the definition of family in Rhode Island’s existing paid family leave law to include siblings and grandchildren to fit the reality of RI’s diverse and multigenerational families.

While we support and commend Senate Labor for wanting to improve this vital program, we strongly feel that any increase in weeks without an increased rate benefit for low-income families will not go far enough to make a difference. Data shows that workers with the lowest incomes, less than $20,000 per year, are least likely to access and use paid leave in Rhode Island. In 2017, these workers made up the largest share of those contributing to the TDI/TCI fund, yet they were the smallest share of workers to collect benefits and are the only group to experience this trend. Source: “Working Parents, Child Care, and Paid Family Leave in Rhode Island,” Rhode Island Kids Count, 2018.

We thank you for your time and consideration in this matter. We are eager to work with you and the sponsors of each bill to ensure that the TCI program is stronger and more impactful for all Rhode Islanders.
   

Catherine Taylor
State Director
AARP Rhode Island

Phil Zarlengo
State President
AARP Rhode Island


About AARP AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, including 132,000 Rhode Island members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability

and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.orgwww.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol and @AARPadvocates, @AliadosAdelante on social media.

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