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Senior group presses for caregiver tax credit

The hand of an elderly person being held by the hand of a younger person

After a recent AARP survey found that nearly 80% of New York’s 2.5 million unpaid family caregivers spend a significant amount of their own money to care for a loved one, the organization is pushing for federal and state tax credits to help ease that growing burden.

The survey, taken in the spring, showed the average amount is $7,242. AARP's New York director of government affairs and advocacy, David McNally, said the money goes toward a wide range of needs.

“Over 50% of the money was spent on housing,” said McNally, who added that includes paying for mortgage, rent, or home modifications.

Others reported day-to-day expenses.

“Gas to drive someone to the doctor, bandages, certain foods that they need for their diet,” McNally added.

He said those costs disproportionately fall on Black and Latino caregivers.

By age group, Generation X caregivers spent the most money, with more than $8,500 in out-of-pocket expenses, while Generation Z and millennials spent a larger share of their total household income on caregiving.

Caregivers also lose pay when they have to take time off from work, or use paid family leave, which does not fully reimburse a person’s salary.

The problem is only expected to grow as the population ages.

AARP is asking Congress to approve a tax credit of up to $5,000 to help offset caregivers’ costs. They still have to pay for the out-of-pocket expenses, but they would not have to pay taxes on those items or services or on the income they use to make the purchases.

“Unpaid family caregivers, they are the backbone of long-term care in our country,” McNally said. “They need more support.”

The measure has bipartisan support, and is backed in New York by Democratic Reps. Tom Suozzi of Long Island and Brian Higgins in western New York, and Republican Rep. Tom Reed from the Southern Tier.

A similar tax credit proposal in the New York State Legislature is sponsored by Sen. Rachel May and Assemblymember Ron Kim, who both chair the state's Aging Committee.

AARP is launching a media campaign to gain support for the proposals.

McNally said family caregivers can find more information about how to better plan financially on the group’s website.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.