Congress took a small step forward last week on behalf of the nation’s 40 million family caregivers.
As part of a sweeping appropriations bill, lawmakers provided $300,000 to establish the nation’s first family caregiving advisory council. The measure is expected to go to President Donald Trump this week.
The advisory council is key to implementing the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, a bipartisan measure signed into law in January, to address the growing burden on families and businesses as the nation becomes increasingly older and more infirm.
These informal caregivers contribute an estimated $470 million in unpaid care for America’s older adults each year, according to AARP.
The RAISE Act — which stands for recognize, assist, include, support and engage — calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to present an initial strategy to Congress within 18 months. Implementation has been slow to come, said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., one of the co-authors, who sent a letter to the agency in March to urge swift action.
In a statement, Baldwin praised the “critical funding” needed to take the next step.
The council will bring together informal caregivers and older adults as well as employers, health care providers, senior housing representatives, community leaders, nonprofits and all levels of government. The ultimate goal is to address a wide scope of social, cultural and policy solutions.
The U.S. economy takes a $33.6 billion hit per year in lost productivity as working caregivers help out their loved ones. The physical and mental toll has been linked to higher health care costs for caregivers, even as their work has been shown to save taxpayers money by preventing or delaying costs of care paid by Medicare and Medicaid.