Most of us are, have been, or will be a family caregiver or will need help to live independently at some point in our lives. This is an ageless and nonpartisan issue. Family caregivers are of all ages, races, and ethnicities and cut across all segments of our population. Some of Washington’s 800,000 family caregivers would get much-needed financial assistance under the Credit for Caring Act, introduced on May 18 in the United States Senate and House of Representatives
Family caregivers are the backbone of caregiving services and supports in Washington state. They help make it possible for older adults, people with disabilities, and veterans to live independently in their own homes and communities. The physical, emotional, and financial challenges they face in their caregiving roles cannot be overstated and, for many, the challenges have increased with COVID-19.
There is also a significant economic impact as family caregivers nationwide provide about $470 billion annually in unpaid care to their loved ones. Their assistance helps save taxpayer dollars by helping to delay or prevent more costly nursing home care and unnecessary hospital stays. They face out-of-pocket expenses to assist their loved ones as well as a potential hit to their income and retirement savings. An AARP report found that family caregivers spend, on average, nearly 20 percent of their income on caregiving expenses or almost $7,000 annually and 45 percent have reported negative financial impacts such as taking on debt or stopping saving.
“Family caregivers are the unsung heroes of the long-term care system in Washington state, and they need help,” said Cathy MacCaul, AARP Washington Advocacy Director. “Many are struggling to balance their care responsibilities with paid employment. And they’re dipping into their own pockets to cover care-related expenses for their loved ones. By providing a tax credit to eligible family caregivers, Congress can offer some much-needed financial relief to these hardworking Americans.”
The Credit for Caring Act would create a new, nonrefundable federal tax credit of up to $5,000
for eligible working family caregivers to help address the financial challenges of caregiving. The Act would allow family caregivers to offset costs like hiring a homecare aid and installing grab bars, putting money back into their pockets.
Eligible working family caregivers who care for loved ones of all ages could receive the credit if the care recipient meets certain functional or cognitive limitations or other requirements. This tax credit would help family caregivers who care for non-dependents or who do not live with the person they are assisting.
AARP believes that family caregivers have earned support as they take on these costs and responsibilities associated with caregiving. Supporting them would help grow the economy and strengthen our fractured and outdated long-term care system. To learn more about the Credit for Caring Act, visit www.aarp.org/caregiving. See also www.creditforcaring.com.
Contributor Christina Clem is a communications specialist at AARP Washington.