Hillary Clinton’s Plan to Invest in the Caring Economy: Recognizing the Value of Family Caregivers and Home Care Workers
Millions of families are struggling to provide care for their loved ones—for elderly parents and grandparents, and for family members with disabilities or with serious or chronic illnesses. And nearly half of all Americans in their 40s and 50s are part of the “sandwich generation”—with an aging parent and either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. Hillary Clinton knows that as baby boomers age, more and more families will need to provide care for or will need care from loved ones. In fact, the number of Americans needing long-term care and support is projected to grow from about 12 million today to 27 million by 2050, and nearly 7 in 10 people turning age 65 will need long-term care at some point in life. That is why today Clinton is putting forward her plans to provide support for the millions of families paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging or disabled family members.
Many family members, most often spouses and adult daughters, spend time out of the workforce, cut back on hours, or use personal days, vacation, and family time to provide needed care. Providing informal caregiving can strain family finances, with caregivers suffering lost wages, health insurance, and Social Security benefits. Informal caregiving has a real effect on our economy, as well; in 2013 alone, the full economic value of unpaid informal caregiving was estimated at $470 billion. Families also rely on home care workers to help them provide needed care to aging, disabled, or ill family members. Home care workers do hard, essential, compassionate work for millions of Americans. Despite the extraordinary care they provide, home care workers are often invisible and among the lowest paid of any occupation, and nearly half live in households that depend on public assistance. The low wages in these jobs lead to high turnover and limited training, creating care systems that do not work for the families depending on care or the workers who provide it.
Hillary Clinton believes that it is time to reform our tax policies, Social Security system, and work-family policies, to support paid and unpaid caregivers and to recognize their fundamental contributions to families and to America.
As president, Clinton will:
- Clinton will provide tax relief to family members who care for ailing parents and grandparents. Family caregivers spend as much as $5,000 or more in expenses related to their elders’ care, but in many cases they receive no tax deduction or credit. This shouldn’t be this way: caregiving can be a win-win for our families and our overall health system. This is why Clinton will offer a 20 percent tax credit to help family members offset up to $6,000 in caregiving costs for their elderly family members, allowing caregivers to claim up to $1,200 in tax relief each year.
- Launch a Care Workers Initiative to create a coordinated, government-wide initiative to address the challenges faced by care workers—by developing strategies to improve opportunities for care workers to earn the skills they need; creating paths to professionalize the workforce through career ladders and apprenticeships; improving the rate-setting processes in the child care and health care systems to ensure fair wages; providing care workers with an opportunity to come together and make their voices heard in support of a stronger system; and by developing and enhancing matching services to connect care workers to the families who need them.
- Expand Social Security by counting the hard work of caregivers and giving them the benefits they deserve. Millions of women—and men—take time out of the paid workforce to raise a child, take care of an aging parent or look after an ailing family member. Caregiving is hard work that benefits our entire economy. However, when Americans take time off to take care of a relative, they do not earn credits toward Social Security retirement benefits. This can reduce their Social Security benefits at retirement, since those benefits are calculated based on their top thirty-five years of earnings—an issue that disproportionately impacts women. For years, leaders like Congresswoman Nita Lowey have called out these disparities. No one should face meager Social Security checks because they took on the vital role of caregiver for part of their career. Hillary Clinton believes this is an idea whose time has come: Americans should receive credit toward their Social Security benefits when they are out of the paid workforce because they are acting as caregivers.
- Build on the Caregiver Respite program. Caring for a sick family member day in and day out can exact a significant emotional and physical toll. Both caregiving family members, and those they care for, can benefit from occasional temporary relief. As a Senator, Clinton was the lead Senate sponsor of the Lifespan Respite Care Act, which was enacted. It authorizes grants that continue today to improve respite care access for family caregivers of children or adults of any age with support needs. As president, Clinton will go beyond President Obama’s Caregiver Respite budget request—investing $100 million in the initiative over 10 years.