Increased weeks for paid family leave are only viable if working families can afford to take the time off.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.–The Rhode Island Paid Leave Coalition and the RIght from the Start campaign are applauding the Senate Labor Committee’s passage of Senate Bill 688 which would increase Rhode Island’s temporary caregiver benefits program (also known as Paid Family Leave) to 8 weeks by 2023, but are urging the Senate to also pass Senate Bill 436 to increase wage replacement rates, particularly for lower-income workers.

During the Senate hearing on these bills, 13 organizations, representing organizations that advocate for Rhode Islanders across the life spectrum including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Associations of Retired Persons testified in support of Senator Goldin’s comprehensive bill. Below are statements from five members of the coalition and campaign making the argument for why it’s necessary to increase wage replacement rates to support workers earning low wages.

RACHEL FLUM, ECONOMIC PROGRESS INSTITUTE: “We are glad that the Senate is focusing on improving paid family leave this year since we’ve seen what a lifeline it has been for so many families during the pandemic,” said Rachel Flum of the Economic Progress Institute. “However, only increasing TCI to 8 weeks without increasing Rhode Island’s lowest in the nation wage replacement rates will do little to make this benefit available to our state’s lower-income workers who literally can’t afford to take this critical care time off. That’s not right, and that’s why we are urging the Senate to also pass Senator Goldin’s comprehensive TCI expansion bill that will increase Rhode Island’s paid family leave replacement rate to at least 75% for lower income workers. Everyone deserves access to this important benefit, not just those who can afford it.”

LEANNE BARRETT, RHODE ISLAND KIDS COUNT: “We know that new parents who earn lower wages take paid leave at lower rates than parent who earn higher wages,” said Leanne Barrett, Senior Policy Analyst at Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. “Low-wage workers are often women and people of color. Rhode Island needs to act to increase wage replacement rates to ensure all families can use the benefit they contribute a portion of their paycheck to. We also strongly support the effort to extend the number of weeks of leave available to be closer to the national standard of 12 weeks of leave.”

PAMELA HIGH, MD, RI CHAPTER OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: “Paid family leave improves the short-term and long-term health of both moms and babies,” said Pamela High, MD, Pediatrician at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and member of the RI Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “All families deserve to have time at home to provide the intensive care that babies need during the first few weeks and months of life without having to worry about making ends meet. The RI Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics urges the General Assembly to strongly consider improving the wage replacement rates for this program to make it more inclusive for low-income workers in addition to extending the number of weeks.”

SAM SALGANIK, RI PARENT INFORMATION NETWORK: “Every day in our work, we see how impactful TCI is for Rhode Islanders, especially parents raising children with special needs and adults caring for aging parents and loved ones,” said Sam Salganik, Executive Director of the RI Parent Information Network. “We support Senator Goldin’s comprehensive approach, including higher wage replacement rates, because it does the most to make this critical support available to low-income families who need it.”

MAUREEN MAIGRET, CHAIR OF THE AGING IN COMMUNITY SUBCOMMITTEE: “We know many grandparents who are still in workforce are responsible for caring for their grandchildren,” said Maureen Maigret, chair of the Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long Term Care Coordinating Council. “To deny them the opportunity to take paid leave to care for a seriously ill grandchild who they care for is a grave omission from the current law as is the omission of siblings. When parents become unable to care for older children who become ill or injured it is often siblings who step in as the main caregiver and they need the financial support provided by this law.”

For additional background on Rhode Island’s paid family leave program and the Paid Leave Coalition, see www.economicprogressri.org/paidleave, and RIght from the Start’s “Improving Rhode Island’s Paid Family Leave Program” presentation.