Sen. Gayle Goldin this week heralded a $161,417 U.S. Department of Laborgrant awarded to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT) to fund a study on the paid caregiver leave program she sponsored.
The DLT will use the federal funds to study the effectiveness of the Rhode Island Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program – a program enacted by legislation (2013-S 231B) Senator Goldin sponsored last year – and its benefits for Rhode Islanders, as well as the public’s awareness of the program.
“At some point in their lives, just about everyone needs time out of work to provide care to a loved one, whether a young child or a sick family member. But only 12 percent of Americans have access to paid leave though their employers. With our new caregiver leave program,Rhode Island is a leader in the United States. Now, Rhode Islanders are no longer forced to choose between paying their bills or taking care of their families. I would like to commend the staff of Department of Labor and Training and faculty at URI for coming together, on a tight timeline, to submit this grant. Their vision for ensuring we have the best program possible, while at the same time, helping Rhode Island to lead the nation, gives me confidence that this grant award will ensure people across the country will soon have access to the type of paid time off available in most other countries around the world,” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence), who advocated in Washington, D.C., for the funding to become available and then worked locally to bring faculty at University of Rhode Island and staff of the DLT together to develop the proposal. She also extended thanks to the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee for their advocacy for the grant as well as their recognition of the importance of paid leave for caregivers.
Senator Goldin’s 2013 legislation expanded the state’s TDI program so it now covers up to four weeks of wage replacement for workers who take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent or to bond with a new child, whether through birth, adoption or foster care. The leave time is job-protected, so that employees know their job will still be available when they come back to work. The expansion is funded through employee contributions, just as the rest of the TDI program is funded.
When Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance program began in January, the state joined California and New Jersey as the only states that have paid family leave insurance. Although the federal Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 requires that employers with 50 or more employees provide workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for major life events such as birth, adoption or seriously ill family members, or their own health needs, the unpaid status of that leave makes it difficult for many people to afford to take time off.
This federal grant will provide data and analysis to help Rhode Island develop best practices and allow other states to learn from Rhode Island’s experience with developing and implementing paid family and medical leave programs at the state level. Three states and the District of Columbia were awarded funding. Rhode Island received the largest grant in the country.
According to the DLT, 3,200 claims have been filed for caregiver leave in Rhode Island since it became available this year. Most of claims are new parents taking time to bond with a newborn child. Care of a seriously ill spouse is the second most-cited reason, followed by care of a parent or a child.