Bipartisan group pushes caregivers tax credit

Bipartisan group pushes caregivers tax credit
© Victoria Sarno Jordan

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working to provide a tax credit for family caregivers they say is a step toward recognizing the financial sacrifices caregivers often have to make.

Several members of Congress detailed this legislation to create a federal, nonrefundable tax credit of up to $3,000 for family caregivers who work. They discussed why it was needed — at times diving into very personal stories of their experiences as a caregiver — at The Hill’s Cost of Caring: Family Caregivers and Tax Reform event Thursday morning, sponsored by AARP.

Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) is an only child whose father died 30 years before his mother started showing the first signs of dementia. He chose for her to live at home instead of a nursing home, and spent the about $60,000 he had saved up for an apartment within a year.

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“My goal was to keep her home no matter what it cost,” Donovan said.

But passing legislation isn’t easy in a fiercely divided Congress.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), along with a bipartisan group of senators, introduced the Credit for Caring Act in the Senate and said she’s started discussing the legislation with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchJudiciary Dems say GOP treating Kavanaugh accuser worse than Anita Hill Dem vows to probe 'why the FBI stood down' on Kavanaugh Senate Democrats increase pressure for FBI investigation of Kavanaugh MORE (R-Utah). Additionally, she said she met with a group of Republican and Democratic House members Wednesday, and the bill was brought up.

“It is just about having those discussions and sharing the facts and figures, too, with the personal stories about how this will impact all of the senators in their home states, because this is an issue being faced by every American as they look at caring for their loved ones,” Ernst said.

Republicans are aiming to pass tax reform legislation this year, and Donovan said if the tax credit for caregivers isn’t included, then it should be passed as a standalone bill.

“I tell my colleagues who may not be as passionate as we all are about the subject, you go tell AARP you’re not for this thing and see what happens to you,” Donovan joked.

Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinDems seek to rebuild blue wall in Rust Belt contests The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump Poll: Democrats inch forward in Wisconsin MORE (D-Wis.) is a co-sponsor of the legislation and called it “a modest step but a very important step” to help enable people to care for a loved one in the way they choose.

Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) said the cost of long-term care is putting pressure on states and on families.

“This is an effort to get Congress to start talking about caregiving and long-term care given the dynamics of the aging of America,” she said.

The conversation also turned to healthcare reform, as a revised version of the Senate Republican healthcare bill is expected to be released Thursday. Leadership is facing a divided conference as both moderates and conservatives have criticized the bill.

Ernst said she remained “cautiously optimistic” when asked if a healthcare bill could pass the Senate this month.

Donovan was one of the 20 House Republicans who voted against the House-passed bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare. He opposed it, in part, because of a provision allowing insurers to charge older adults five times as much as than younger Americans. ObamaCare limits this ratio to 3 to 1.

“You can’t be down here and be afraid to stand up for what you believe in because of how it’s going to affect you in an election,” he said, adding that “if we keep doing this on a partisan basis, every time the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue changes, we’ll have another healthcare policy for this country.”