The Examiner

Lowey to Introduce Social Security Credits Bill to Help Caregivers

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Rep. Nita Lowey, with County Legislator Peter Harckham, left, staff at My Second Home in Mount Kisco and several area caregivers who support the congresswoman's bill she intends to introduce this week.
Rep. Nita Lowey, with County Legislator Peter Harckham, left, staff at My Second Home in Mount Kisco and several area caregivers.

Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Harrison) announced Monday that she will introduce legislation this week to increase Social Security payments for caregivers who lose time at work tending to family members.

Speaking at My Second Home, a facility which offers adult day care services and resources for caregivers in Mount Kisco, Lowey said she plans to introduce the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act in the House today (Tuesday). The measure would provide a Social Security earnings credit for those who have been forced to stop working to care for relatives.

The credit would be based on the national average wage index, which is currently at about $45,000 per household. It would ultimately increase caregivers’ retirement income, allowing them to maintain better financial security later in life.

“My top priority is investing in Alzheimer’s research at the National Institutes of Health so that we can prevent Alzheimer’s and cure Alzheimer’s. But as long as it still exists, and there’s so many questions, caregivers…are really sacrificing their own jobs because they love their parent or their child, who is home ill; and it definitely affects their retirement because it affects their long-term Social Security benefit,” Lowey said.

Michele Muir, communications director for the Alzheimer’s Association, said 19 per cent of Alzheimer’s caregivers must quit their jobs because of the burden of their duties. Women are most affected because they comprise 66 percent of unpaid caregivers. In addition, women earn less money than men and average 10 fewer years in the workforce.

Lowey conceded that the bill will not solve all of the problems faced by caregivers today. The congresswoman has been focusing on this issue for several years, and said she believed it was essential to write this bill, which is a modified version of one she worked on years ago.

Lowey stated that the measure will give caregivers peace of mind and won’t force them to be “financially punished” for choosing to take care of loved ones.

At Monday’s press conference, Lowey was joined by several local caregivers who shared their stories. They stressed the positive impact that the proposed Social Security Caregiver Credit Act would have on their lives.

Secondary caregiver Joan Fuller spoke of her brother, a primary caregiver, who has made financial sacrifices to care for their mother.

“When we consider the financial impact on the family, where my brother works for himself, and I know his retirement is taking a hit because it’s not a question of are we going to take care of our mother,” said Fuller, who noted that even a small credit would make a difference for her family.

The proposal calls for an earnings credit that would be added to incomes to recalculate benefits. It is progressive and varies on an income-based sliding scale. It would be phased out if a caregiver earns more than the national average. A full-time, unpaid caregiver who does not work would be eligible to receive a credit of about $22,000 a year.

County Legislator Peter Harckham, who attended the event, agreed the bill would be welcomed relief for families torn between work and a desire to care for their loved ones.

“Here in my district, this is the rural part of northern Westchester, and we have so many seniors who are struggling and so many families who are struggling to take care of them,” Harckham said. “This bill will go a long way to provide support that is so desperately needed as so many of my constituents take time away from their work…to take care of seniors.”



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