Kaine, Durbin bill to support family caregivers passes Senate

U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced that major components of their Supporting America’s Caregivers and Families Act, a bill that would increase funding, training, and support for the more than 34 million family caregivers in America, passed the Senate unanimously as part of the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020.  Each year, caregivers provide more than $470 billion worth of unpaid care—more than the entire federal Medicaid budget.

The average caregiver spends $7,000 of their own money every year to provide care to loved ones, with an average commitment of 24 hours per week.  The strains of caregiving can deplete savings, impact employment, and increase emotional stress and physical health challenges. Durbin and Kaine’s bill bolsters the nation’s network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs), and enhances support for caregivers through additional funding, skills building, resources and information, respite care, counseling, and other services.

“Whether it’s caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, the chronic care needs of an aging parent, or the emotional or physical health needs of a child, tens of millions of Americans are pressed into service to care for their loved ones.  Our bill places a higher value on the heroic job that our caregivers—the majority of whom are women—do every day in the face of heavy emotional and financial burdens,” Durbin said.  “I’m glad the Senate passed my bill with Senator Kaine as part of reauthorizing the Older Americans Act. It will dramatically increase our commitment to caregivers by providing the resources, training, and support they need for themselves and the loved ones they assist.”

“As our population ages, more and more family members are sacrificing time and income to care for their loved ones,” Kaine said. “We must do more to lift up their critical work. I’m grateful that the Senate passed our legislation to help ensure family caregivers are supported and have the resources they need to provide the best possible care.”

The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020  enhances the ability of AAAs, under the authority of the Older Americans Act, to support caregivers and those they serve by doing the following:

*Increases the funding authorization level for the National Family Caregiver Support Program (Title III-E of the Older Americans Act) from $160.8 million up to $244.8 million by 2024.

*Increase the use of caregiver assessments:  Directs the Secretary to increase the use of caregiver assessments, and creates a new technical assistance and research effort to share best practices.  Eighty-four percent of caregivers report they could use additional information to provide care to loved ones.  Increasing the use of caregiver assessments will help identify and address the health, financial, training, and skills needs that caregivers may have.

*Enhance Funding and Partnerships with Health Payers:  Expand the ability of AAAs to receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid to provide case management and other services for seniors, which will increase funding for support services to seniors.

*It is estimated that by the year 2030, 73 million—or one in five—people in America will be age 65 or older.  Today, nearly 35 million Americans provide unpaid care to people aged 50 and older, the vast majority of whom are family members.  At the same time, a growing number of grandparents and older relative caregivers are providing care to young children and adults with disabilities.  Two out of five caregivers report high levels of emotional stress, while six in ten report that their own work has been affected by caregiving.

*The Supporting America’s Caregivers and Families Act is endorsed by: National Alliance for Caregiving, National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), Alzheimer’s Association, and Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.

In December, Durbin introduced legislation to update the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  The Family Medical Leave Modernization Act would guarantee small necessities leave and make important updates to the definition of family to ensure a broader range of caregiving relationships are covered by FMLA’s protections.

In September, Kaine introduced legislation to strengthen the direct care workforce. The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 includes language adding projects that would improve the direct care workforce to an existing list of authorized projects that could receive funding under the legislation. The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020 also includes provisions from legislation Senator Kaine co-sponsored, the Time for Holocaust Survivors Act (S. 2179), which amends the Older Americans Act to focus on the social service needs of Holocaust survivors in the U.S.

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