Mainers are a deeply caring people.

We don’t just mean that in the figurative sense. Mainers literally provide incredible care to their loved ones. According to a study recently released by AARP, a higher proportion of Mainers are caring for their aging family members, for longer periods, than in almost any other state in the country. Last year, 181,000 Mainers spent 152 million hours caring for their loved ones. As anyone who has cared for a loved one knows, this can be joyous work, but it can also be incredibly difficult – physically, emotionally and financially.

We need to recognize and support Mainers who are caring for their loved ones by acknowledging the sacrifices they’re making and by lightening their loads. That’s why, together, we’ve submitted a bipartisan piece of legislation to provide a $2,000 tax credit for family caregivers in Maine. It’s called L.D. 1919, An Act To Provide a Tax Credit for Family Caregivers.

The family caregiver credit, which will be known as the Rep. Ann E. Peoples Family Caregiver Credit, will honor one of Maine’s most dedicated public servants. But perhaps more importantly, Ann was a dedicated caregiver. When her husband, Patrick, required full-time care, Ann embraced that role with grace, compassion and a devotion to providing the best care she could. Just like Ann, Patrick was a constant presence in the State House. In order to care for him, Ann brought Patrick along to every committee meeting, task force or news conference. This dedication, made by so many caregivers across the state, deserves to be recognized and valued. That’s what this tax credit aims to do.

Here’s how it will work: Beginning in 2021, anyone who has provided at least 150 hours of personal care assistance for one or more adult family members over the last year will be able to apply for the credit when they file their state income taxes. Anyone who is making less than $75,000 per year as an individual or $150,000 as a married couple will be eligible for the credit.

While $2,000 may not seem like a lot, it helps to recognize the dignity and importance of the work that family caregivers provide. One recent study estimates that caregivers who are over 50 years old and leave the workforce to care for a parent lose an average of more than $300,000 in income, retirement savings and benefits that they otherwise would have accrued.

The benefits of helping Mainers to care for their loved ones in their own homes also makes good fiscal sense. The alternative to care at home is often a facility that costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, and where older Mainers and those with disabilities don’t always get the caliber of care that they would if they were able to be at home with the family they love.

We need these family caregivers, and they need our support. L.D. 1919 will be heard, debated and voted on in the Legislature over the coming weeks. If you have ever cared for a family member, been cared for by a family member or just recognize how important this issue is in our rapidly aging state, please call your legislators and let them know that you support the family caregiver credit.

Our older population deserves our respect, and so do the hardworking Mainers who care for them.


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