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AARP New Mexico 2017 Legislative Priorities Focus on Caregiving Leave, Retirement Savings

Wanda and DeAnza

AARP New Mexico will focus on two main priority bills for the 2017 New Mexico Legislative Session – the first focusing on paid leave for family caregivers and the second will study retirement savings options.

House Bill 86, the Caregiver Leave Act would change the definition of sick leave to include family caregiving duties without putting an undue burden on employers. The Act would only apply to those employers who already provide sick leave. It would not require additional sick leave to be offered. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Deborah Armstrong and Sen. Michael Padilla.

“Balancing work and caregiving can be very challenging,” said Jackie Cooper, AARP New Mexico State President. “A recent AARP survey shows that 74 percent of New Mexico’s working family caregivers have had to come into work late or leave early in order to care for a loved one.”

“Some sick leave policies have very defined uses only allowing sick leave to be used for the individual employee and that can result in a family caregiver having to take leave without pay, which can cause or add to financial issues,” Cooper said.

A 2016 AARP Survey of 2000 New Mexico voters shows the following:

  • 59 percent of New Mexicans surveyed reported they were currently a family caregiver or had been one in the past while 56 percent, who reported that they were not caregivers, said they expected to be one at some point in the future.
  • More than half of these caregivers, 58 percent, said they are employed full or part time.
  • More than a third, 38 percent, reported having to take a leave of absence from their job and 26 percent reported they had to reduce hours of work from full-time to part-time, while caregiving.
  • 23 percent of New Mexico family caregivers left the workplace entirely. In comparison, the national average for leaving work entirely due to caregiving is 10 percent.

“It’s important to keep caregivers in the workforce and HB86 helps with that by allowing sick leave to be used for caregiving duties. It’s a simple change that can help people maintain the balance between work and caring for a loved one,” Cooper said.

AARP New Mexico’s second priority is the adoption of a joint memorial that would create a task force to study the issue of retirement savings options for private sector employers.

Currently 62 percent of New Mexico’s private sector employees, or 336,000 people, don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work.

AARP New Mexico is leading efforts to closely look at this issue and determine if it is feasible for the state to establish a retirement savings plan for those employees who don’t currently have access to one.

“The task force would study all aspects of such a plan looking at how it would be administered, the cost, and what the best model for New Mexico would be,” said Leonel Garza, AARP New Mexico Legislative Chairman. “While AARP believes a publicly established and administered model would be the best way to go, there are others who believe a marketplace model may be a better option.”

AARP research shows that small businesses are less likely to have a retirement plan. Businesses with 100 or less employees are 76 percent less likely to have access to a plan compared to larger businesses.

Often individuals, who don’t have access to a retirement plan, rely solely on Social Security to cover their retirement. However, the average annual benefit in New Mexico for Social Security is $13,920.

Other priority areas for the 2017 Session include:

Protecting and adequately funding:

  • NM Aging & Long-Term Services Department that administers programs that allow older individuals to remain independent and at home, provide access to resources and information, and protect adults from abuse, exploitation and neglect.
  • Medicaid health care benefits that provide New Mexicans with basic health care, community-based long-term services, expanded health care benefits for adults and maintain adequate and appropriate provider reimbursements to prevent the loss of Medicaid providers, especially in rural areas. 

Support for:

  • Health Care legislation that increases access to health and dental care in New Mexico;
  • Consumer Protection legislation that protects individuals from identity theft and scams;
  • Legislation affecting utilities and telecommunications that protect consumer rights and access and fair rate systems
  • Efforts to increase state revenues to support the types of services and programs listed above. Any revenue enhancement efforts should consider: equitable and sustainable approaches, reducing the impact on low-income or fixed income individuals, an evaluation of tax credits necessary to support our communities, and Medicaid leveraging options that meet CMS criteria and are acceptable and fair to current Medicaid providers.

(Photo: DeAnza Valencia Sapien, AARP New Mexico Associate State Director for Advocacy, and Wanda Morrison, AARP New Mexico Volunteer Leader, prepare materials for AARP's Legislative Volunteer Orientation.)

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