Caregivers, parents, advocates urge expansion of TCI
STATE HOUSE – A coalition of advocates, care providers and parents announced their support today of Sen. Gayle L. Goldin’s and Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski’s legislation expanding access to the state’s paid family leave program, the Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) program.
Rhode Island was the third state in the nation to pass a paid family leave program when it enacted TCI in 2013. (New York later enacted the program, joining Rhode Island, California and New Jersey.) Under that bill, which was sponsored by Senator Goldin, TCI provides up to four weeks of partial (about 60 percent) wage replacement for workers who need to take time from their jobs to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child. The worker’s job and seniority are protected while the worker is on leave.
The legislation (2018-S 2470, 2018-H 7544) would increase the number of weeks a worker can use from four to six weeks in 2019 and eight weeks in 2020. It would increase the amount that workers who earn less than double the minimum wage can receive when they claim TCI. The legislation would also add grandchildren and siblings to the family members for whose care a person can claim TCI. In 2017, more than 6,200 workers used TCI to take time from work to bond with a new child or provide care for a seriously ill family member.
The sponsors said that investments in Rhode Island’s paid family leave program would continue to make Rhode Island economically competitive and may even help address employee turnover, saving employers the costly step of replacing existing employees. Because the TCI program is entirely funded by employee contributions, there are zero-out-of-pocket contributions from employers.
“Rhode Island’s four-year experience with TCI has been very successful, proving caregiver leave is a cost-effective way to keep people from losing their jobs, jeopardizing their financial security or risking their family’s well-being when they need to take time off to care for a new child or a sick family member. It helps employers to retain good employees without extra costs, because it is funded by employees themselves. Expanding it to a length that would cover a minimal maternity leave or recovery from a major surgery would make it a more comprehensive resource that would benefit workers, families and businesses alike,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence).
Said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), who was unable to attend the event, “A University of Rhode Island study performed after the first year of Rhode Island’s TCI program found that people who used it had reported better overall physical health, less stress, a greater sense of satisfaction and, in the case of mothers who used it for maternity leave, longer breastfeeding and more baby well checks. They also reported fewer absences after they returned to work. TCI has a very positive impact on workers’ lives, helping them balance their families’ needs and their professional goals. The study also found that people need more. Four weeks doesn’t fully cover the needs many people have, and the wage replacement, especially for people whose wages are low in the first place, needs to be greater. TCI is a great support for workers, but it could do so much more for Rhode Islanders if it better matched their real needs.”
The coalition to expand the Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) program is coordinated by the Economic Progress Institute (EPI).
“TCI expansion is a win-win-win for our state, our businesses, and our workers” said Rachel Flum, executive director of EPI. “By increasing the number of weeks and increasing wage replacement we are sending a strong message to our workers that they shouldn’t have to choose between their paychecks and caring for their loved ones.”
Members of the coalition supporting the expansion include AARP Rhode Island, Aging in Community, American Academy of Pediatrics, Economic Progress Institute, Rhode Island Community Action Association, Rhode Island Jobs with Justice, Rhode Island KIDS Count, Rhode Island NOW, Rhode Island Working Families Party, SEIU 1199 NE, Senior Agenda of Rhode Island and Women’s Fund of Rhode Island.
As part of the State House announcement, the coalition showed a short clip of Zero Weeks, a documentary highlighting why paid family leave is important to workers and economies. The House Labor Committee held a hearing on Representative Blazejewski’s bill following the event.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903