Tester’s Bipartisan Bill to Support Montana Seniors Heads to Trump’s Desk

Legislation will Outline Strategy to Better Support Family Caregivers

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester helped send a bipartisan bill to President Donald Trump’s desk this week to provide a big boost to family caregivers.

Tester’s Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act requires the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to prioritize family caregivers by convening a National Caregiving Advisory Council. The council will be responsible for developing a National Family Caregiving Strategy that identifies legislative and administrative policies to better support family caregivers.

“Every year, more Montanans are forced to take on the role as the primary caregiver for an aging parent or spouse,” Tester said. “These folks are often required to step away from their job and pay out of their own pocket to care for a loved one. This bipartisan bill will put family caregivers on the forefront so we can better identify solutions, provide them with more financial support to cover expensive health care costs, and protect them from losing their job.”

Montana’s chapter of AARP applauded Tester for ushering the RAISE Family Caregivers Act through the Senate.

“Thanks to the efforts of bipartisan Senate and House champions- including Senator Tester as a co-sponsor-the RAISE Family Caregivers Act will help address the challenges family caregivers face,” said AARP Montana State Director Tim Summers. “There are more than 118,000 family caregivers in Montana helping loved ones to live independently in their own homes and communities. The care that these family caregivers provide in Montana is estimated to be valued at $1.4 billion annually. Anything we can do to make it easier for them to take care of their loved ones is welcome and helps them recharge. AARP Montana appreciates Senator Tester co-sponsoring this bill.”

Tester’s bill requires the Family Caregiving Advisory Council to meet three times a year and submit an annual report to Congress on the progress of the National Family Caregiving Strategy. The council will be made of appointed family caregivers, adults with long-term health care support needs, and representatives from government agencies including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Treasury.

The National Family Caregiving Strategy must identify specific actions that federal, state, and local governments can take to better support caregivers. The strategy must also include recommendations for health care service providers to protect family caregivers from large health care expenses, as well as guidelines for employers to protect family caregivers from unnecessary lost wages.

The 118,000 family caregivers in Montana are often required to pay for home modifications and medical supplies out of their own pocket while losing wages due to unpaid time-off as a result of providing care.

The RAISE Family Caregivers Act will be the first of Tester’s three bipartisan caregiver bills signed into law this year.

Tester is also sponsoring the Credit for Caring Act, which will create a nonrefundable tax credit worth up to $3,000 per year for individuals who spend more than $2,000 of their personal money on caregiving expenses.

Tester’s bipartisan Caring for Our Veterans Act will expand the VA’s caregiver support program to veterans of all service eras. Currently only caregivers of post 9/11 veterans are eligible for unique financial, tax, and peer support from the VA.

Across the nation, there are nearly 12 million people in need of long-term care, and family caregivers spend an estimated 30 billion hours caring for older family and friends each year without receiving any compensation.

Tester’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).