Rhode Island Governor Signs Groundbreaking Paid Family Leave into Law

Editor’s Note: Vision 2020 Rhode Island Delegate Marcia Coné commends the  passage of the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Bill (HB 5889, SB 231). Read the full press release from the Rhode Island Women’s Fund below.

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND—Governor Lincoln Chafee signed Rhode Island’s paid family leave bill into law today.

With a vote of 26 to 10, last week on July 3rd, the Rhode Island Senate joined the House of Representatives and passed the Temporary Caregiver Insurance Bill (HB 5889, SB 231) making Rhode Island the third state in the country to pass a family leave insurance law.  Sponsored by Senator Gayle Goldin and Representative Elaine Coderre, the Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) bill will be the first law of its kind in the nation 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.

TCI 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. The measure awaits signature by Governor Lincoln Chafee.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 then, 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.  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.”

“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.”

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 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.”

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 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.”

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Vision 2020 is a national coalition of organizations and individuals united in their commitment to achieve women’s economic and social equality. Join Vision 2020 today! http://www2.drexelmed.edu/vision2020giftsonline/Individual.aspx
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