New families find relief through caregiver insurance

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Individuals with new babies or sick family members can find relief through temporary caregiver insurance, or TCI – a new program that’s paid for with your paycheck.

Rhode Island is one of three states in the country that gives partial paid time off – in Rhode Island’s case, four weeks – to workers bonding with a newborn, adopted or foster child. It also applies to those caring for a sick family member.

The program, which started in January 2014, is funded through a state payroll tax. It shows up on your paycheck as TDI, or temporary disability insurance. Everyone who works in Rhode Island who makes more than $10,800 a year pays into it.

To be eligible for TCI, an applicant must pay into disability insurance, provide medical documentation, and give their employer 30 days’ notice.

Jack Hanna, a local father who took advantage of the program, said it allowed him to spend quality time with his newborn daughter, Maya.

“As first-time parents, we had some adjusting to do,” he said. “Me being home, I think, was pretty key on just making it a smooth adjustment.”

TCI isn’t the only avenue new parents can take, however; the federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows for unpaid time off. But state Sen. Gayle Goldin, a Providence Democrat and chief sponsor of the TCI legislation, says unpaid leave isn’t much help.

“Particularly it’s when you have a new child in your house or you’re having some serious family crisis, that’s not when you can afford to take unpaid time,” Goldin said.

Goldin argues TCI benefits both employers and employees. She said workers are more likely to return to work after taking paid leave and are more productive, while employees are guaranteed not to lose their jobs.

More than 4,000 Rhode Islanders have taken advantage of the TCI program since its inception, according to state data.

Cindy Butler, director of government affairs with the Society for Human Resource Management’s state council in Rhode Island, said the TCI program could present challenges for small businesses in the state, but right now it’s too early to tell if it is.

“If you had 10 employees and someone takes four weeks off, do you have to replace that employee? Could that impact your production? It could be a problem,” she said.

The Department of Labor and Training has hired researchers from URI to evaluate the first year of the TCI program, and the study is expected to be completed by early fall. The findings will be reviewed by the federal government, as Congress considers a national paid time off law.

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