Saturday, July 13, 2024

PARENTAL CAREGIVING BILL SIGNED INTO LAW – RI

Expanded parental, caregiving leave signed into law

STATE HOUSE — A law sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Valarie Lawson and Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo will expand Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) program from six weeks to eight, allowing new parents more time for parental leave and caregivers more time to care for a critically ill family member.

Senate Majority Whip Valarie Lawson

The legislation (2024-S 2121Aaa2024-H 7171Aaa), which was signed into law Tuesday after passage by the General Assembly, will phase in the increase, providing seven weeks to workers beginning Jan. 1, 2025 and eight weeks beginning Jan. 1, 2026.

“This bill is an investment in our workforce and in our children, one that will pay off for generations,” said Senator Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence). “A society where people have the time to bond with their babies is a healthier society, in every sense of the word.”

Rep. Joshua J. Giraldo

The United States is one of only six countries in the world, and the only wealthy country, without guaranteed paid parental leave, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center. In recent years, some states have stepped up to offer their own programs.

“I know from my own experience as a father of a daughter born prematurely, that the gift of time that TCI provides is priceless for parents,” said Representative Giraldo (D-Dist. 56, Central Falls). “No one should have to make the choice of whether to go back to work or stay with their newborn and risk losing their income.”

Rhode Island became the third state in the nation to offer paid parental leave in 2013 when legislators created the TCI program. TCI, which is paid for through payroll deductions, allows new parents to take six weeks of paid leave to bond with and care for their child. It also allows individuals to take this time to care for a seriously family member. That can prove vital for a working adult who needs to care for their spouse after a surgery or a terminally ill parent.

Since 2013, however, many other states have surpassed Rhode Island’s leave offerings. Currently, 11 states and the District of Columbia offer paid parental leave, with two additional states set to offer it beginning in 2026. Most offer eight to 12 weeks, while Rhode Island offered the least amount of time at just six weeks.

In addition to increasing the number of paid weeks available to workers, the legislation increases the dependent allowance for those using TCI who have dependents under 18 years from $10 per week to $20 for each dependent.

Paid family leave is a critical resource for families to be able to properly welcome new children to the world and care for aging or sick loved ones,” said Divya Nair, policy analyst with the Economic Progress Institute. “Rhode Island was a national leader when paid family leave was first passed in 2013 but we have since fallen behind other states with similar programs. Rhode Islanders deserve expanded paid family leave to properly care for loved ones.”

In addition to the benefits for individuals, Senator Lawson and Representative Giraldo say, expanded parental leave has profound benefits for children and our wider society. Parental leave is associated with more relationship satisfaction and lower divorce rates for couples. Studies have found access to paid leave reduces infant mortality, hospital visits and childhood obesity while improving vaccination rates, educational outcomes and long-term parental engagement.

In addition to the benefits for individuals, Senator Lawson and Representative Giraldo say, expanded parental leave has profound benefits for children and our wider society. Parental leave is associated with more relationship satisfaction and lower divorce rates for couples. Studies have found access to paid leave reduces infant mortality, hospital visits and childhood obesity while improving vaccination rates, educational outcomes and long-term parental engagement.

All of these factors have an economic impact as sicker children require more resources and healthier, better educated children have higher lifetime earnings.

“This legislation provides the invaluable resource of time at pivotal points in the lives of Rhode Islanders,” said Senator Lawson. “Everyone should have the opportunity to care for a loved one.”

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