One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned as a small-business owner is that the best ideas are often rooted in simple common sense. Common sense, however, isn’t as common as we’d like to think. That’s why I was so impressed when I heard about Temporary Caregiver Insurance legislation in the Rhode Island General Assembly. The bill aims to bring people together to improve our economy and strengthen families.
Enacting Temporary Caregiver Insurance is a rare win-win for business owners and employees. If TCI passes, however, the biggest winner would be the state economy. It would make our state more economically competitive and a better place to work and raise a family.
Temporary Caregiver Insurance (House bill 5889 and Senate bill 231) is a cost-effective approach based on Rhode Island’s current Temporary Disability Insurance program. For less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, TCI would let workers receive employee-funded replacement income while they take a leave from work to care for a seriously ill family member or new child. TCI is revenue-neutral and funded solely by employees, not business owners. The bill would limit employees to eight weeks of leave, giving them job security and income while dealing with life-changing events, and then let them return to work following their leaves.
Under TCI, workers would no longer have to choose between a seriously ill family member or the job they depend on. Letting people stay in the workforce in this way would help cut Rhode Island’s unemployment rate, as well as the number of people collecting unemployment.
This would eventually lessen the cost that business owners pay into unemployment insurance. Further, replacement income means that social programs would be used less often, saving taxpayers money. Just as important, business owners would know when an employee would be returning to work and would no longer have the added expense and burden associated with recruiting, hiring and training a new employee.
My company provides laser technology to manufacturers in many industries, such as medical devices, electronic and semiconductor components, aerospace, automotive, jewelry, industrial tooling, consumer goods and more. Competing in the global economy is a challenge that can only be met if I have access to a sophisticated and specialized labor force that my industry demands. However, finding qualified workers in Rhode Island is more challenging than it should be. To remain competitive and build strong communities, the state needs to hold onto its best and brightest, while also attracting a skilled labor force with strong values.
Although the state might not offer the same number of high salaries as other states, passing the Temporary Caregivers Insurance bill would offer what we all know employees need: employment security during an unexpected family health crisis.
The prestige of having the most family-friendly work environment in New England would be a compelling incentive for families to stay in the state or make Rhode Island their home and help grow the economy at the same time.
I’m not a public-policy expert, but I am a business owner, a husband, a father and a son, and someone who cares about my home state. An employee should never have to choose between taking care of his or her seriously ill relative or his or her job. That’s not the Rhode Island way. I urge legislators to pass TCI. It’s simply common sense.
Daniel R. Gold is the president of Pawtucket-based LNA Laser Technology and a member of We Care for Rhode Island, a coalition of business owners, policy centers and family and health-care advocates that support passing Temporary Caregiver Insurance legislation.