In a time of bitter partisanship, two Republican women and one Independent man joined with six of their Democratic colleagues in the US Senate to put forth a bill that would ease the lives of the more than 43 million family caregivers of people who are aging or living with disabilities or chronic illnesses that interfere with their activities of daily living. Together they submitted the Credit for Caring Act (CCA), with Senator Joni Ernst as the lead sponsor. Independent Women’s Voice joined a coalition led by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in signing a letter endorsing the Act and applauding the bipartisanship.
This legislation speaks to the very heart of who I am and the realities of my life. Born with a disability, I was slow to develop in the activities of daily living like dressing myself completely, walking from place to place, properly bathing, and tidying my room. My mother, who was widowed when I was five, had to spend extra time with me to get these things done which took away from her time and energy at work, and trustworthy caregivers who would care for me by my mother’s standards in her absence were in short supply.
To a single income family, a tax credit like the one proposed in the CCA would have made a great deal of difference.
During my teenage years, my mother became a member of the “sandwich generation” caught between caring for her teenaged daughter with a significant disability and her aging parents. This meant more time away from gainful employment and personal fulfillment while spending more money on caregiving needs.
Today, my husband cares for me in important ways: While I have come a long way from not being totally able to properly tidy my room and care for my bathing needs, I still require assistance for several activities of daily living. Tony drives me to places I can’t easily reach via public transportation. He helps me move the laundry to and from the laundry room in our building (8 loads a week!), and he handles most of the cooking. My husband loves to cook, so things work out nicely there. Between him and my loyal, well-trained service dog, Annie Oakley, my care is nattily handled, and we do not have to hire a personal care attendant for me.
Other things do not work out so nicely. The expensive medical supplies I need to function are not completely covered by insurance, including a wheelchair accessible van that can only be taken to one mechanic within a 100-mile radius for repairs because of the modifications. The Credit for Caring Act has provisions for tax credits for these things, which will make us more able to put assets aside for the future.
Adults with disabilities are the most underemployed group in the country. The CCA would also be of help to them in achieving the American dream: self-sufficiency. If tax credits could be given to help pay for people in my situation- married or living with someone who helps care for them- they might be able to move out of dependence on SSI/SSDI and Medicare/Medicaid to find fulfilling work and thus financial independence. Furthermore, support for family-based caregiving will likely decrease facility-based care in nursing homes and hospitals, which will also save taxpayer dollars.
Like many people in our generation, Tony and I have now become caregivers for both of our mothers as well, so we also understand the importance of supporting those who care for aging parents.
Caregivers are the unsung heroes of our American community. IWV was proud to support the increase to the Child Tax Credit in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017; it is past time that something like the Credit for Care Act be put into place to support caregiving for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities.