Rhode Island 2013 Legislative Successes

Rhode Island, the smallest state in the U.S., is a leaders among states in improving outcomes for young children and families. This year’s legislative session brought some important new victories for the state’s children...

Paid Family Leave   With the enactment of the Temporary Caregivers Insurance Act (LINK), Rhode Island became the third state in the nation to provide paid time off for new parents and individuals needing to care for a seriously ill family member.  Funding for the Act comes from an expansion of Rhode Island’s existing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program.  Rhode Island KIDS COUNT worked with the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island and other advocates to educate legislators about the need for parents to have paid time off to care for new family members, including adoption and foster care children. Rep. Elaine Coderre, the bill’s primary sponsor in the House, said "Temporary Caregiver Insurance is one of those rare policies where everybody benefits.  In an economy where too many people are struggling to cover the basics, TCI will ensure that a new baby or a health crisis does not become a financial crisis for our working families."

Expanded funding for the Child Care Assistance Program $1.5-$3 million in TANF funding will be allocated to pilot test a policy allowing families to remain eligible for child care subsidies as family income increases up to 225% FPL, beyond the current limit of 180% FPL.  Extending eligibility helps soften the "cliff effect" from losing the subsidy once income increases.  Families frequently experience a net decrease in income when they lose their subsidy due to increased earnings.  Similar cliff effect policies are in place in 18 states plus the District of Columbia.

Expanded access to Full-Day Kindergarten  The Full- Day Kindergarten Accessibility Act of 2012 increased the percentage of Rhode Island Kindergarteners with access to full day Kindergarten programs. During the 2013 legislative session, the Act was amended to allow districts to phase-in implementation of full-day kindergarten, and allocated $250,000 to cover one-time start-up costs.  Currently, 68% of Rhode Island kindergarteners are enrolled in full-day programs (compared to 77% nationally). 

New state funding for Lead Poisoning Prevention   A new state fund will help make up for federal cuts to lead poisoning prevention and enforcement programs. Since 1998, Rhode Island has decreased the percentage of young children entering kindergarten with a history of lead poisoning from 67% to 13% statewide, and from 81% to 18% in the urban core cities.  New state prevention funding will help to ensure that this progress continues.

Leanne Barrett and Elizabeth Burke Bryant, www.rikidscount.org  (August 29, 2013)