President Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton, too) were the first presidential candidates in American history to discuss caregiving issues on the campaign trail. Trump's plan didn't get as much attention as Clinton's because the emphasis was on paid maternity leave. But it did include provisions for helping caregivers of their aging parents or relatives.
In a story about Trump's and Clinton's caregiving proposals, Forbes reported, “Family caregiving, it seems, is going mainstream." (1)
And according to FMLA insights, a website providing information about federal regulatory issues for employers, “It certainly is notable that (Trump) was the first Republican presidential nominee to propose paid maternity leave for employers across the country." (2)
But the plan Trump proposed goes beyond paid maternity leave and includes tax breaks and savings incentives for family caregivers of aging adults. The plan outlined on the Trump-Pence campaign website includes:
Deductions of care costs for family caregivers of both children and seniors who are dependents (up to four people). Singles earning $250,000 or less, and couples earning $500,000 or less, could write off costs such as home care, day care, and presumably, respite care. Plan details are not completely clear, however.
The amount would be based on “the average cost of care for the state of residence," per the Trump-Pence website. (3).
Dependent care savings accounts that would not be subject to federal income tax, not even if they accrue interest income in an investment. Many employers already offer dependent care flexible spending accounts, but such accounts do not allow balances to accumulate.
“When established for an elderly dependent, (the accounts) can cover a variety of services, including in-home nursing and long-term care," according to the campaign website. “Mr. Trump's plan will provide regulatory reform to promote new family-based and community-based solutions…The ability to set aside funds will be particularly helpful to women, low-income workers and minorities, who are statistically more likely to reduce time working outside the home in order provide unpaid care."
Federal caregiver assistance is long overdue
In a New York Times piece by Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, a compassionate explanation of the plight of family caregivers notes the caregiver population is more diverse in terms of age and gender than most people realize.
“According to AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, the typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for an older relative – but nearly a quarter of caregivers are now millennials and are equally likely to be male or female," he writes. (4) “About one-third of caregivers have a full-time job, and 25 percent work part-time. A third provide more than 21 hours of care per week. Family caregivers are, of course, generally unpaid, but the economic value of their care is estimated at $470 billion a year – roughly the annual American spending on Medicaid."
Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole wrote a Valentine's Day piece for the Washington Times describing the struggle of caregivers for our nation's veterans.
“While access to care has improved at the Department of Veterans Affairs over the last few years, the new administration must recognize that the care for our veterans does not fall entirely on the shoulders of government," she explained. “In actuality, many family members or friends step into the role of a military caregiver without sufficient assistance and support from government programs. These spouses, mothers, dads, children, siblings or friends are typically taking on the role of caregiver for the first time – with little or no training – while managing complex injuries and illnesses over a lifetime of care." (5)
She said the Trump administration “Must take note that the situation with caregivers of veterans is a silent crisis, one in which those most in need of help are often too overloaded and stressed to ask for it."
In fact, that applies to every caregiver in America.
Paid employment leave needed most by caregivers
What family caregivers of older adults really want is paid leave, but the odds of that happening under the current administration appear to be zero. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), Trump's plan to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave probably won't even happen. (6)
“There is practically no chance for bipartisan support of a paid leave law coming out of Congress," Mark Kisicki, a Phoenix attorney, told SHRM (4). “The only paid leave House Republicans might support would be an amendment to FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) that would allow some type of compensatory time that employees could earn – at 1.5 times their regular hourly rate – by working overtime but electing not to be paid and, instead, banking those hours for future use as paid family leave."
The SHRM report adds that “While Republicans may support such legislation, however, Democrats seeking broader paid leave rights may not."
Many caregivers are worried about what a Trump presidency will mean for their own health insurance costs. Self-employed caregivers with federally subsidized insurance plans purchased off the marketplace, and low-income caregivers with insurance obtained under the Medicaid expansion, worry they may lose their benefits when Obamacare is repealed and coverage will become too costly.
- 1. Gleckman, H. (2016, Sept. 14). Donald Trump's Plan to Support Family Caregivers. Forbes. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2017, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2016/09/14/donald-trumps-plan-to-support-family-caregivers/#7e6a07412acb
- 2. Nowak, J. (2016, Nov. 17). Does Paid Leave Become Reality in a Trump Administration? FMLA Insights. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2017, from http://www.fmlainsights.com/does-paid-leave-become-reality-in-a-trump-administration-and-who-is-his-likely-choice-to-head-the-department-of-labor/
- 3. Trump-Pence campaign website. (2016, Sept. 13). Fact Sheet: Donald J. Trump's New Child Care Plan. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2017, from https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Analysis-Trump’s-Child-Care-Proposal-Would-Provide-Most-of-Its-Benefits-to-Higher-Income-Families.pdf
- 4. Khullar, D. (2017, Jan. 19). Who Will Care for the Caregivers? The New York Times. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/upshot/who-will-care-for-the-caregivers.html?_r=0
- 5. Dole, E. (2017, Feb. 14). Remember the caregivers. The Washington Times. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2017, from http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/14/remember-the-caregivers/
- 6. Smith, A. (2016, Nov. 16). Trump's Maternity Leave Proposal may not be Popular on Capitol Hill. Society for Human Resources Management. Retrieved Feb. 18, 2017, from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/trump-maternity-leave-proposal.aspx