With the new year comes a new governor and a new legislative session and AARP Massachusetts is still fighting for what matters to you and your loved ones. This year, the AARP Massachusetts state office is focused on four areas; a family caregiving tax credit, comprehensive nursing home reform, property tax deferral reform, and strengthening the CORE plan- a work and save program. There are a number of bills associated with these proposals. Here is what we’re fighting for and the bills that we’re backing:
CAREGIVING TAX CREDIT
An Act to Establish the Family Caregiving Tax Credit
Sponsors: HD2376 – Representative David Rogers SD936 – Senator Jason Lewis
The Act will provide family caregivers with an income tax credit to cover expenses incurred by a taxpayer for the care and support of a qualifying family member. The amount of the credit is equal to 100% of eligible expenses, with a maximum allowable credit of $1,500. The tax credit would help address the financial challenges of caregiving and allow more unpaid family caregivers to keep their family members in the community.
More than 844,000 Bay State residents are caring for aging parents or loved ones, helping them live independently in their own homes. The total value of unpaid care provided to individuals in need of long-term services in Massachusetts amounts to more than $11 billion every year.
While most caregivers are asked to assist an individual with basic activities of daily living, such as mobility, eating, and dressing, many are also expected to perform more complex tasks on a daily basis such as administering multiple medications, providing wound care, and operating medical equipment.
Expenses that would be covered under this bill include:
- Improvements or alterations to the taxpayer's primary residence thereby enabling the care recipient to remain mobile, safe, and independent in his/her home and community.
- The purchase or lease of equipment necessary to assist an eligible care recipient in carrying out one or more activities of daily living.
- Hiring a home care aide or personal care attendant; paying for respite care; paying for adult day health
- The cost of transportation, legal and financial services, and/or assistive technology to care for their loved one.
On average, family caregivers are spending roughly $7,000 per year on out-of-pocket costs related to caregiving. That’s why AARP urges lawmakers to enact An Act to Establish the Family Caregiving Tax Credit to better support family caregivers.
NURSING HOME REFORM
An Act to Improve Quality and Oversight in Long Term Care
Sponsors: HD2564- Representative Tom Stanley SD1244- Senator Patricia Jehlen
An Act to Improve Quality and Oversight of Long-Term Care is an omnibus bill which takes a comprehensive approach to regulating the long-term care industry and addressing needed reforms in transparency and oversight. The legislation also seeks to provide additional workforce supports and sets the stage for further innovation and development of alternative models of care.
An Act to Ensure the Quality of Care in Nursing Homes
Sponsor: HD3443- Representative Ruth Balser
An Act to Ensure Quality of Care in Nursing Home will:
- Define Hours Per Patient Day (HPPD) and require staffing thresholds of 4.1 hours per patient day, with at least .75 hours provided by a registered nurse.
- Require facilities to develop and implement a written Department of Public Health-approved isolation prevention plan (IPP) and have appropriate technology, staff, and other capabilities in place to prevent residents from becoming isolated during public emergencies.
- Requires facilities to convert all residential bedrooms to single or double occupancy rooms.
AARP has called for the enactment of a a five-point plan to protect nursing home and long-term care facility residents—and save lives—at the federal and state levels:
- Prioritize regular and ongoing testing and adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for residents and staff—as well as inspectors and any visitors.
- Improve transparency focused on daily, public reporting of cases and deaths in facilities; communication with families about discharges and transfers; and accountability for state and federal funding that goes to facilities.
- Ensure access to in-person visitation following federal and state guidelines for safety and require continued access to virtual visitation for all residents
- Ensure quality care for residents through adequate staffing, oversight, and access to in-person formal advocates, called long-term care Ombudsmen.
- Hold long-term care facilities accountable when they fail to provide adequate care to residents.
The COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation and its impact has been especially deadly for residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Federal policymakers were slow to respond to this crisis, and no state has done a good enough job to stem the loss of life.
WORK & SAVE
An Act to Encourage Retirement Savings
Sponsors HD2450- Representative Paul Donato and SD2088- Senator Sal DiDomenico
An Act Relative to the 401(k) CORE Plan
Sponsors HD1669- Representative Ann Margaret Ferrante SD258- Senator Joan Lovely
Today, a secure retirement is out of reach for over one million Massachusetts residents, especially those who work for themselves or small businesses. While Social Security is a critical piece of the puzzle; it is not enough to depend on. Many future retirees won’t be able to handle the rising cost of basic needs and health care. Nearly half of Massachusetts workers have no access to a retirement savings plan through their employers. The average Social Security benefits for a 65+ family is only about $16,791 per year, while older Massachusetts families on average spend $22,459 a year on food, utilities, and health care alone.
Work and save programs are a common-sense solution that make it easier for businesses to offer employees a way to save for retirement out of their paycheck. It’s an easy, stress-free way to grow retirement savings so you can take control of your future. The savings is your own money that you can take with you from job to job. You can rely on in later years to take control of your future. Accounts are voluntary. As an employee, it’s up to you to decide if you want to participate and how much you want to put away automatically from your paycheck. It is never too early, or too late, to start investing in your future. Also, giving employees a simple way to save for retirement will mean fewer people will need to rely on public assistance later in life, which will save taxpayer dollars.
SENIOR PROPERTY TAX
An Act Relative to Senior Property Tax Deferral
Sponsors: HD2933- Rep. Tommy Vitolo and Rep. David M. Rogers
SD1775 -Senator Patricia Jehlen
Tax deferrals allow seniors to use the equity in their home to defer paying their property taxes until they sell their home or die.
Property taxes are based on the value of the home and are not directly related to a taxpayer’s current income and ability to pay
A third of all local revenue nationwide generated by property tax. Property tax is an important source of revenue for local government. Massachusetts residents pay high property taxes, and many have high property values.
There is no long-term cost to other taxpayers since the tax is repaid when the property is sold or transferred.
The bill would be enacted at the state level but is optional for local governments. We can’t wait any longer. Long-time homeowners are being forced out of their home due to rising taxes
WE NEED YOU!
There’s a lot to do. AARP Massachusetts can use your help; contacting lawmakers, sharing your stories, testifying at hearings; making your voice heard. If you’d like to learn more on how you can help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join AARP Massachusetts for a volunteer Advocacy Action Day!
AARP Massachusetts is starting off the annual state budget season with a virtual advocacy event Tuesday, April 4 from 10:30 – 11:30am. The Massachusetts state budget funds critical programs for older residents such as home and community-based care, food and housing assistance, and local Councils on Aging. Hear from legislative leaders and learn how you can make a difference in advocating for change here in the Bay State.
Sign up here.