It’s encouraging to see that since the beginning of the year, lawmakers across the country wasted no time in introducing legislation to support family caregivers. These federal and state bills encompass a range of policy strategies intended to provide financial support to family caregivers, to ease the conflict between work and family responsibilities, and to offer additional services to care recipients and their families.
New York lawmakers got the year off to a strong start with the introduction of no less than nine bills related to family caregiving in the first half of 2007. Some of those bills, for example, would provide paid leave to workers in the state to care for an older parent or relative (A 844, S 4738, S 5821); establish a Grandparent Caregiver Support program for grandparents and other relatives 60 years or older who provide primary support for a child (A 965); and provide qualified caregivers with an income tax credit of 20% on the first $2,400 spent on qualified care expenses (A 1464, S 459).
In addition to New York, states including Hawaii (H.B. 795), Kentucky (H.B. 257), Minnesota (H.F. 2178/S. 1931), New Mexico (S.B. 727) and Oregon (S.B. 768) all have legislation pending which would provide tax incentives to family caregivers.
At the federal level, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Alzheimer’s Family Assistance Act (S. 898) to provide an income tax credit, starting at $1,000 in 2007 and increasing each year until it reaches $3,000 in 2011, for family caregivers to help offset their caregiving expenses, including home health care, adult day services, respite care and prescription drugs. Sen. Mikulski, along with Representative Edward Markey (D-MA), also introduced the Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Act (S. 898/ H.R. 1560) which would double funding for Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and expand services for family caregivers.
Family and Medical Leave
California, Illinois, New York and Oregon are among the states that introduced legislation to create or expand family and medical leave benefits to working caregivers. Two different bills were introduced in California, one to make Paid Family Leave accessible to more caregivers by expanding the definition of qualified family member (S.B. 727) and the other to provide job protection to workers who must take time off to care for an ill family member (A.B. 537). Both New York (H.B. 9245) and Oregon (H.B. 2575) passed bills in at least one legislative chamber to establish paid family leave programs for family caregivers and new parents.
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