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Sen. Sue Crawford

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45

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January 8, 2016

Senator Crawford Introducing Relief for Caregivers Legislation

Bills Include the Assisting Caregiver Transition Act and Paid Family Leave Insurance Program

Statement from Senator Crawford

This morning I introduced two pieces of legislation to offer relief for Nebraska caregivers and families.

Family members are a key part of the health care team.

It is critical that our state laws recognize and support these family caregivers who provide this health care to fellow Nebraskans.

These two bills will make it easier for Nebraskans to take care of their loved ones.

The first bill,  is the Assisting Caregiver Transition Act, LB849

This bill would allow hospital patients to designate a caregiver who would then receive instructions from the hospital at discharge so that the caregivers know how to safely look after loved ones and help them heal.

Family Caregivers already play an important role in assisting loved ones with their health care needs.

In 2013, about 40 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 37 billion hours of care to an adult with limitations in daily activities, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.

In fact, the value of unpaid family care vastly exceeds the value of paid home care.

This legislation takes on increasing importance as the number of Nebraskans over the age of 65 is projected to grow from 247,000 to more than 404,000 and the number of Nebraskans 85 years and older will grow 75% over the next 20 years, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha analysis.

Many more Nebraskans will find themselves in the position of caring for aging family members and friends with chronic health conditions. We must ensure these caregivers have the resources they need.

While the need is growing particularly for senior patients, the ACT bill provides important help to caregivers of adult patients of any age.

This is especially important in our fast-paced society, where caregivers must often balance work with care for loved ones.

In addition to providing help to caregivers, however, this legislation has the potential to help families keep seniors in their homes longer, postponing costly long-term care.

As the Omaha World Herald pointed out in its editorial last weekend:

“Two out of every five dollars the Nebraska state government spends on Medicaid are to cover long-term care services for seniors. This demand will grow as the state’s population continues to age.”

Other states are already responding to their own costs and projections.

Currently, 18 states and Puerto Rico have enacted measures similar to this bill.

That is why I am proud to introduce the Assisting Caregivers Transition Act this morning and I urge my legislative colleagues to pass this bill.

The second bill I introduced today to help caregivers and families establishes a state paid family leave insurance program. This bill is LB850

It has been 21 years since Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act providing unpaid leave for numerous families.

Since that time, three states have created paid leave programs for family or medical leave: California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Federal FMLA only applies to businesses with more than 50 employees and to workers who have been employed for a minimum of one year, which means ⅖ of the American workforce is excluded. Of those who do qualify, fewer than 20% use it.

This low number can be explained in part by the very low availability of paid family leave.  Only 12% of private-sector workers have access to paid family leave, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A 2012 national workforce survey found almost half (46%) of all workers who had unmet needs for family or medical leave did not take the leave they needed because they could not afford it.

Current policies put too many workers in untenable positions: keep the jobs they need or care for the families they love.

What’s more, a recent New York Times/CBS Poll found that family responsibilities kept more than half of non-working Americans out of the workforce.

A recent data query of reasons that Nebraskans who apply for unemployment assistance give for leaving a job shows that nearly 20% of them report health and family issues.

With Nebraska’s serious workforce shortages, we can’t afford to have these workers sitting on the sidelines.

Paid family leave is not just an important benefit for new parents.  A child of any age may face the tragedy of an extended hospital stay for a serious illness or injury. Moreover, working Nebraskans with aging parents may also need time off to help an aging parent or partner recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s adjust to new routines or move them into a new living situation.

Without a paid family leave policy, some women may leave the workforce entirely to care for a child or family member.

In fact, a 2013 Pew study found that 27% of women had quit their job to do just that.

Dropping out of the workforce to care for an aging parent can have serious financial repercussions.

For many women in their 40s and 50s, the lack of a paid family leave program forces them to sacrifice their own long-term financial stability, which can have ripple effects long after the aging parent has passed away.

States can invest in infrastructure to ensure workers can put families first without sacrificing their jobs or their long-term financial security.

Paid family leave is not only critically important to families and the Nebraska workforce, it is also affordable and doable.

The bill we are introducing today establishes a partnership between the state, employers and employees.

The state establishes the infrastructure for the program. Employers ensure workers are able to return back to their jobs after leave and the employees pay a small premium for the insurance that provides partial wage replacement when they need it.

Cost estimates show the premiums should be well under $2 a week.

Sen. Sue Crawford

District 45
Room #1016
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2615
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