This is the Congressional appropriations season, and as such, both the U.S. House and Senate have been debating the annual appropriations measures that fund government operations and programs.
Committees in both the House and Senate have approved measures that fund the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP). For fiscal year 2004, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor/HHS/Education has approved $155 million for the NFCSP—the same funding as in fiscal year 2003. In contrast, the House subcommittee recommended $168 million in its version of the bill. Both versions are an increase over the levels recommended by President Bush. Before becoming effective, the bill must be approved by both the full House and Senate, their differences reconciled, and then sent to the President.
More information on the Senate legislation can be found: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/releases/record.cfm?id=205574
For the House bill, please see: http://www.house.gov/appropriations/news/108_1/04lhfull.pdf
Several other pieces of legislation of interest to caregivers have been introduced in the Congress over the last several months. U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) has sponsored the Family Caregiver Relief Act of 2003 (S.1214) which would provide a tax credit of up to $5,000 to help pay the expenses of families who care for loved ones with chronic care needs. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) have reintroduced the Long-Term Care and Retirement Security Act of 2003 (S. 1335). The legislation’s many provisions include a $3,000 tax credit for caregivers or persons with long-term care needs, as well as an above the line deduction for the purchase of long-term care insurance. A House companion bill (H.R. 2096) has been introduced by Nancy Johnson (R-CT).
At the state level, there has been a variety of action on measures to assist family and informal caregivers. For example, the Iowa General Assembly has approved H.F. 386, which amends the Older Iowans Act. Among other measures, the legislation recognizes the need to support family caregivers within the context of home and community-based services. The bill was signed into law by the Governor on May 21, 2003.
Following California’s lead, three states (Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey) are considering paid family leave measures. Pending legislation in each state would provide some measure of wage replacement should a family member need to take leave to care for a sick family member. More information on each of these bills can be found at:
Arizona legislature: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/
Massachusetts legislature: http://www.state.ma.us/legis
New Jersey legislature: http://www.njleg.state.nj.us
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