Survey: RI’ers using family leave happy with program

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island is one of only three states in the country that gives partial, paid time off to new parents or workers with sick family members.

In the Ocean State, the paid family leave program is called Temporary Caregiver Insurance and it’s paid for by Rhode Island taxpayers.

Temporary Caregiver Insurance, or TCI, started in Rhode Island in January 2014. A group of researchers from the University of Rhode Island was commissioned by the Department of Labor and Training to study how things went during the first year of the TCI program.

The results were released this week. The most significant detail of the group’s findings – only half of the 900 people they surveyed knew about the TCI program.

Overall, researchers told Eyewitness News about 70% of people who applied for TCI were either “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their experience.

“Employees who took TCI experienced better health outcomes, lower stress levels as well as higher personal well-being and health,” said URI researcher Emily Djurdjevic.

However, the group of researchers said awareness of the program hasn’t yet peaked.

“We found out that about 50% of everyone we surveyed was aware and the other half were not,” said Barbara Silver, assistant research professor at URI’s Schmidt Labor Research Center. “Of course those people were mostly the ones that didn’t take TCI.”

Among the other findings from URI’s team of researchers:

  • 73% of those who took TCI used it to care for a new child
  • 23% took it to care for a sick family member
  • Most who used TCI found out about the benefit through family and friends, rather than employers and doctors

Researchers say one of the biggest misconceptions about the Temporary Caregiver Insurance program is how it is paid for.

“People need to know that they are paying for the program and that employers – or the state – are not paying for any of it,” said Silver.

The program is funded through a state payroll tax. It shows up on your paycheck as TDI, or Temporary Disability Insurance. Every person working in Rhode Island who makes more than $10,800 a year pays into it.

URI researcher Helen Mederer said the findings of the TCI study should call attention to how important families are to successful economies.

“Families are little economies,” said Mederer. “I think that the more you can integrate work and family in our society, the more stable our society will be and the better outcomes our economy, families will have.”

Eyewitness News contacted the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, which runs the Temporary Caregiver Insurance program. The department said that in order to increase awareness about paid family leave, staffers now offer more information about TCI to workers calling with questions about leave.

A spokesman for the department also said it will continue to work with employers and doctors to remind the public about TCI.

URI researchers will continue to study Rhode Island’s TCI program with help from a $235,737 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

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