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July 19 2017

Who Cares for the Caregivers?

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Last week, a novel thing happened here in Washington, D.C. Republicans and Democrats came together over the very personal issue of caregiving. A bipartisan group thinks they can provide relief through the tax code to Americans – the majority of whom are women - who care for sick and ailing parents, children, and relatives.

Family caregivers have the arduous task of providing care for sick and dying family members. At a recent bi-partisan panel, several Republican and Democratic Members of Congress shared their personal experiences caring for an ailing parent while juggling full-time jobs – including representing their state or districts in Congress.

The Hill captured some of their personal experiences:

Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) is an only child whose father died 30 years before his mother started showing the first signs of dementia. He chose for her to live at home instead of a nursing home, and spent the about $60,000 he had saved up for an apartment within a year.

“My goal was to keep her home no matter what it cost,” Donovan said.

Although, three out of four caregivers are women, Rep. Donovan joins the quarter of men who are caregivers. Nearly 40 million adults are caregivers devoting 37 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at an estimated $470 billion each year. In addition to the out of pocket costs, caregivers are sometimes forced to take time away from work or leave their jobs to look after loved ones, which puts added strain on their health, budgets, and families.

The group of lawmakers led by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced the Credit for Caring bill in the Senate. This bill would create a federal non-refundable tax credit of up to $3,000 for 30 percent of qualified, long-term care expenses for caregivers who maintain a job. The goal is to ease the burdens of caregiving so that they can continue to participate in the workforce.

Ernst explained why the tax credit is needed:

“One thing I value about this piece of legislation is that it is not just helpful for those who are caring for an elderly parent, but there’s also flexibility in that bill for those who are caring for a disabled child, or maybe it is an older parent caring for an intellectually disabled adult child. There are so many applications for this piece of legislation,” Ernst said.

To put this in context, the current healthcare debate centers on getting Americans access to quality healthcare, but dealing with long-term care is an even bigger issue because of the protracted costs. As the nation continues to age and live longer, the costs of long-term care will place heavy burdens on caregivers, their families, states, and the federal government.

Tax reform is a major agenda item for Congress this year and supporters of this bill hope it will be included in the much-needed overhaul of our tax code or passed as a stand-alone bill. We’ll track how it progresses in tax reform discussions or as an independent effort.

Caring for sick loved ones is a labor of love and one that Rep. Donovan eloquently noted, “is emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially draining.” This is a chance to shed light on this gorwing issue and perhaps provide a little relief.

 

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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