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NE family caregivers, advocates hope for passage of Caregiver Tax Credit Act

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Monday, April 8, 2024   

As Nebraska's 2024 legislative session draws to a close, family caregivers and their supporters are closely watching the progress of Legislative Bill 937, the Caregiver Tax Credit Act.

The bill provides eligible family caregivers up to $2,000 in tax credits for out-of-pocket expenses or up to $3,000 if the family member receiving care has dementia or is a veteran.

Jina Ragland, state director of advocacy and outreach for AARP Nebraska, said family caregivers are filling health care gaps in the state, especially with 15 Nebraska counties currently lacking a nursing home or assisted-living facility. Ragland argued the state's family caregivers need and deserve financial support.

"We really feel they're the backbone of the U.S. care system," Ragland emphasized. "Especially here in Nebraska because they're helping parents, they're helping loved ones live independently in their homes."

Family caregivers in the U.S. spend an average of $7,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses. Employed caregivers sometimes lose wages when they have to take time off for caregiving responsibilities. Others retire early, losing both wages and retirement income.

The bill includes an income limit of $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for married couples. Sen. Eliot Bostar, D-Lincoln, introduced the bill on behalf of AARP Nebraska. The legislature is expected to debate the measure for the second time this week.

Joyce Beck of Grand Island knows firsthand the emotional and financial strain of being a caregiver and losing a loved one. She retired early to care for her husband, who suffered from multiple sclerosis and cancer. In addition to significant out-of-pocket expenses, her Social Security and pension payments are both lower because she retired early.

Beck said she knows some Nebraskans face bigger financial struggles as a result of their caregiving.

"If there's any financial support that we can give, that would be so beneficial," Beck contended. "Some people don't have the option of a retirement account or a pension plan, so $2,000 would be huge for them. "

Ragland stressed family caregivers are helping Nebraska taxpayers as well. When their caregiving delays or prevents expensive-nursing home placement, it contributes to lowering the state's Medicaid costs.

"An important concept for people to understand is the value of those people who are just doing what they think is right," Ragland asserted. "The time and the money and the energy that they're providing as family caregivers to offset, again, the gaps in the care services that we have in our communities."

Six states currently offer a caregiver tax credit, and there is a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Congress to enact one at the federal level.

Disclosure: AARP Nebraska contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Consumer Issues, Health Issues, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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