Resources for caregivers and families

Senior LinkAge Line: Free statewide information and assistance for Minnesotans on such things as Medicare, housing options, local services, expert referrals. Calls answered from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at 1-800-333-2433.

Minnesota Board on Aging: Resources on such topics as dementia care, holding a family meeting, hiring home health aides, understanding long-term care supports and services. In English and Spanish.

AARP: Wide range of resources including financial planning, online discussions with other caregivers and help navigating the health care system. 

Where policy stands

Paid family and medical leave generally has bipartisan support by state and federal lawmakers and among the public. But figuring out how to pay for it has long been a sticking point. Here are some highlights of recent laws and approaches to support unpaid family caregivers.

Federal

FMLA: The Family Medical Leave Act, passed 25 years ago, allows eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to deal with medical emergencies and the illness of a family member, without fear of losing their jobs.

Business tax break: A two-year pilot program rewards businesses that offer two weeks of paid family or medical leave. Available for workers earning less than $72,000; companies must cover at least half of their wages to be eligible for a tax credit equal to 12.5 percent of the worker’s earnings while on leave.

Also being considered: The bipartisan Credit for Caring Act, which didn’t make it into the recent tax overhaul bill, would create a tax credit of up to $3,000 for eligible working family caregivers who spend at least $2,000 on care-related expenses. Democrats are also backing the Family Act, which would create a national insurance program to help defray costs of family and medical leave, paid by employers and workers. It would provide up to 12 weeks of partial income. 

Minnesota

Expanded FMLA eligibility: Minnesota’s definition of “family” is broader than the federal law, and includes same-sex couples and domestic partners. Minnesota requires businesses with at least 21 workers to comply, but this applies only for parental leave, and not family care.

“Kin care”: Minnesota employers that offer paid sick leave must allow employees to use that paid time off for “kin care,” which is among the most broadly defined in the nation. It includes care for minor or adult children, a spouse, parent, sibling, in-laws, grandchildren, grandparents or stepparents.

Paid sick leave: There is no statewide requirement. Minneapolis and St. Paul began requiring employers based in their respective cities to provide paid sick time for eligible workers in 2017. Duluth is currently debating it. Companies doing business with the federal government also must provide it.

Additional job protections: Minnesota was the first state to make familial status — defined as being a parent — a protected class through the state Human Rights Act, preventing employers from discriminating against workers on that basis. A 2014 effort to add caregivers failed.

Other states

Paid family leave: Five states have passed laws to provide paid family leave using a range of methods, including unemployment or disability insurance, employer mandates, and social insurance: California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, New York and, in 2020, Washington state.

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