With Maine’s population continuing to lead the nation in octogenarians, many hardworking Mainers are giving up paying jobs to provide much-needed care to their aging partners, parents, and loved ones. But by responding to the immediate needs of their family, caregivers are not only losing their income but also giving up contributing to their own Social Security and their retirement, as well.

Historically, the job of caring for elderly, chronically ill, people with disabilities and children usually fell to women. Caregiving was a domestic job, assigned to the domestic gender. If women lost their earnings as a result, no matter – their husbands would be there to provide for them.

Of course, we don’t live in that world anymore. Women are independent, often the primary earners in their homes. Families don’t always last into old age.

The rising cost of living makes every dollar count. Caregivers should be commended for their work, which is so vital to so many in our state, and they should not have to face poverty in old age for doing it.

This is why we need the Social Security Caregiver Credit, which recognizes caregiving as work, and provides an earning credit to all caregivers working with children under a certain age, people with disabilities and the elderly. It boosts their retirement income from Social Security, helping them stay independent in their old age.

The caregiver credit already has Democratic sponsors in the House, but we need a Senate bill with bipartisan support. So please, Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King, help lead on this issue. Honor the work of the thousands of Mainers this credit would affect.

Reform Social Security into a modern system, not one trapped by the gendered stereotypes of the past. Be the leaders we elected you to be.

Quinn Gormley