Funding for Additional Caregiver Support is Scuttled by Congress

In the August 11, 2010 edition of PolicyDigest, Family Caregiver Alliance alerted our readers that the Senate Appropriations Committee had approved its spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health, and Human Services with a number of provisions benefitting family caregivers. As part of Vice-President Biden’s Caregiver Initiative, an additional $104.5 million was appropriated to support family caregivers through this legislation.

The additional funding was projected to provide:

• An additional 1 million more hours of adult day-care
• 1.3 million more hours of personal care assistance
• Service and information for an additional 200,000 caregivers
• 3 million more hours of respite care.

The legislation also provided the Department of Labor $10 million to provide grants to states to help them implement paid leave programs that could help employees who are caregivers.

While this bill was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in July, it was never voted on by the full Senate or by Congress. Instead, Congress just passed a spending bill that provides funding for Fiscal Year 2011 at FY 2010 levels and will have to be revisited in March 2011.

While this economy requires belt-tightening at all levels, we are disappointed that Congress couldn’t see fit to better support family caregivers who provide the majority of long-term care in the U.S. Family Caregiver Alliance staff members talk daily with family caregivers who are over-extended, tired, stressed, and financially-strained. This legislation could have provided much-needed respite and adult day-care, additional personal care assistance, and information and referrals for caregivers who are attempting to navigate the maze of long-term services and support.

A report released in October sampled 3,502 workers in the U.S. Based on the results of this survey, the authors found that 42% of employed Americans have provided elder care (defined as: “special attention or care for a relative or in-law 65-years-old or older helping with things that were difficult or impossible for them to do themselves”) in the past five years. Forty-four percent of current and past caregivers reported that caregiving has had a negative impact on the way that they take care of themselves. And, of the 38% who reported taking time off or working fewer hours (in order to provide care), 48% report that they lost income as a result.

When Congress revisits the funding legislation in March 2011, we hope that our elected representatives will choose to replace the $104.5 million that would have provided much-needed support. Family caregivers are the backbone of our nation’s long-term care system and we need to provide them with adequate support to do their jobs.

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