How Paid Family Leave is Benefitting Rhode Island Families
Every one of us knows that all too familiar push-pull between work and family responsibilities, but when an emergency arises, that push-pull can tear us apart. Working families in Rhode Island now can rest a little easier knowing that if they have a seriously ill family member or choose to welcome a new child into their home, they will not lose their job, their home, or their economic security. In 2013, my bill to provide our families with paid time off from work to care for a loved one or bond with a child became law. Rhode Island is now the third state to provide paid family and medical leave insurance, and the first one to do so with job protection for everyone who uses it. Nearly 80 percent of the Rhode Island work force now has coverage for the moments when they need it most: a stressful, family crisis or that joyous, but sometimes overwhelming moment when you bring a child home for the first time.
I know what it's like to need to be cared for, and what it means to care for others. It can be expensive, physically draining, and a true emotional strain. For one new Rhode Island mom, paid leave could have changed the trajectory of her life. Amanda and her husband hadn’t anticipated the cost, time, and effort their newborn child was going to require. As a result, Amanda was left taking unpaid leave to care for her newborn baby while bills stacked up on the kitchen table. Ultimately, Amanda and her husband had to make the decision to leave their home and move back in with his parents because they couldn’t afford the life they had spent years building for themselves. Fortunately, every eligible person in Rhode Island will now have up to 4 weeks in a benefit year to take time off to care for a husband after a heart attack, a wife going through cancer treatments, or developing a closer relationship with a child you've just adopted.
Paid family isn't just good for families, though. It's also good for business and our economy. When a mother has money in her pockets, she can still go grocery shopping, which means food on her family's table and the families of the grocery store workers. At the same time, businesses know that when workers who can take time off to care for a loved one without worrying about their own finances, they return to work more committed and focused on the job at hand.
I'm proud to say this new law has already helped nearly 900 families, including the married couple I met last week. Melinda just had a baby, and when she returned to work, her husband took his four weeks off to stay home with their new little one. That's the best baby gift of all.