While the Rhode Island state Senate this week approved doubling the amount of time caregivers can receive Temporary Caregivers Insurance (TCI), it failed to approve measures that would have increased payments to low wage earners or extend coverage to care for additional family members.

The House of Representatives will take up a similar measure, said John Martin of AARP Rhode Island. He said the organization will continue to lobby for inclusion of the measures rejected by the Senate.

The legislation approved by the Senate (still needs House approval and a governor’s signature) increases from four to eight weeks the number of weeks someone can collect TCI. TCI, which was originally approved by the legislature in 2013 and implemented the next year, provides caregiver benefits, according to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training, to individuals providing care for “a seriously ill child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent, or to bond with a newborn child, new adopted child or new foster-care child.” TCI provides 60 percent of wages.

TCI should not be confused with TDI, which has existed in Rhode Island since 1942, and provides benefits (up to 30 weeks) for non-work-related illness or injury.

AARP, which advocates for the over 50 population, is concerned that the 60 percent reimbursement is simply insufficient and a disincentive for low wage earners.

“Rhode Island minimum wage, while increasing in the near future, is currently $11.50 an hour,” said Catherine Taylor, state director, and AARP State President Phil Zarlengo, in a joint statement. “This means Rhode Islanders who earn minimum wage who are forced to utilize TCI/TDI will have to support their family on $6.90 an hour.” For a 40-hour week, that would bring the benefit to $276 a week.

“While any expansion of TCI is a good thing, we feel that solely expanding the weeks without a meaningful expansion of benefit rates for lower income or fixed income families will prevent many Rhode Islanders from participating in the program,” said Taylor and Zarlengo. “Family caregivers are the front line of defense to keep their loved ones out of hospitals and nursing homes.”

AARP had supported another bill addressing TCI that would have increased the benefit rate to 90 percent for minimum wage earners, and to 75 percent for those earning twice the minimum wage.

 AARP is also supporting an expansion of coverage to include those who care for “grandchildren, siblings, and care recipients. COVID-19 has changed the way we work, live, and support each other. Having to alter life to care for loved ones is more commonplace than ever.”

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.