Sen. Lawson bill would help
expand parental, caregiving leave


            STATE HOUSE – Sen. Valarie Lawson is sponsoring legislation to expand Rhode Island’s Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) program from six weeks to 12. That would bring Rhode Island into line with other states and allow new parents more time for parental leave and caregivers more time to care for a critically ill family member.

            “You can’t put a price on time with your new baby or dying mother. You’ll never get those days back,” said Senator Lawson, (D-Dist. 14, East Providence). “People shouldn’t have to choose between paying the rent and providing the care their loved ones need.”

            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.

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, ten states and the District of Columbia offer paid parental leave. Most offer 12 weeks, while Rhode Island offers the least amount of time at just six weeks.

Individuals on TCI in Rhode Island receive 60% of their normal salary. Of the ten states who offer similar programs, most workers receive at least 80%. In Massachusetts, workers receive 80% of their salary for 12 weeks. Workers in nearby Connecticut receive 95% of their salary for 12 weeks.

            “Paid Family leave is a critical resource for families to be able to properly welcome new children to the world or care for aging parents,” said Divya Nair, policy analyst with the Economic Progress Institute. “Rhode Island was a national leader when Temporary Caregiver Insurance 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.”

Senator Lawson’s legislation (2023-S 0139) would expand Rhode Island’s TCI program from six to twelve weeks. It would also broaden the definition of critically ill family members that allow someone to be eligible by including grandchild, sibling and care recipient, meaning an individual for whom the worker is a primary caretaker.

In addition to the benefits for individuals, Senator Lawson says, 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.

“TCI is a great program because it provides new parents the most valuable resource: time,” said Senator Lawson. “This bill is so important for us to be the kind of society we want to be, one where people have the time to bond with their new babies. It’s a small investment now that will pay off for a lifetime.”