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Queens Chronicle

PRIME TIMES: 50 PLUS Bill would broaden elder-care tax credit

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Posted: Thursday, March 6, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 2:20 pm, Thu Mar 6, 2014.

A new bill introduced by Congressman Steve Israel (D-Suffolk, Nassau, Queens) on March 4 would allow those caring for elderly relatives who do not live with them to receive a tax credit of up to $1,200 for qualified elder-care expenses.

Many of those caregivers — who, according to Israel, spend on average $5,530 out-of-pocket each year on expenses for their aging relatives — cannot claim their parents as dependents because they live elsewhere.

The Elder Care Tax Credit Act would extend the dependent care tax credit to those caregivers. It would allow taxpayers to claim a credit for the care of dependents who are parents or in-laws if they are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves but still live outside the taxpayer’s home.

“Many New Yorkers in the ‘sandwich generation’ are struggling to care for elderly relatives and contribute to their expenses while also saddling the expenses of raising their own families,” Israel said in announcing it. “It only makes sense for these caretakers to be eligible for a tax credit for qualified expenses. That’s why I’m fighting to extend the dependent care tax credit to give these families some much-needed relief.”

Israel said nearly half of all adults in their 40s or 50s have a parent aged 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child. In addition, he pointed out, 15 percent of middle-aged adults are providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child. It is estimated that one of three adults with a parent 65 or older has given a parent financial support during the past year.

“New Yorkers who care for an aging parent or elderly relative face enormous costs,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Queens), a co-sponsor of the bill, which, she added, would “make a big difference for a growing number of Americans who shoulder the increasing costs of elder care.”

The bill has already garnered a thumbs-up from Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), who said, “Caring for an aging parent is a labor of love, but it can also place a financial hardship on families. I applaud Congressman Israel’s effort to help families through what is often a very challenging time.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also supports the measure.

There is no companion bill in the Senate yet, Israel’s office said, and representatives of U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) could not immediately offer opinions on it. The offices of Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Queens, Bronx, Manhattan), Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn, Queens) were also contacted, but by press time had not offered any statements on the proposal.

Herb Friedman, executive vice president and CEO of the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack, LI, where Israel announced the bill, said the congressman “has always been a strong advocate for our seniors and we appreciate his continued commitment and advocacy.”

Paid leave for caregivers?

Gillibrand, meanwhile, is fighting for passage of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would provide paid, job-protected leave to care for loved ones, including seniors.

Current law provides unpaid job-protected leave for serious health-related events, but only about half of the workforce qualifies for it, she said, and many more cannot afford to take it because it is unpaid.

The bill would create an independent trust fund within the Social Security Administration to collect fees and provide benefits. It would be funded by employee and employer contributions of 0.2 percent of wages each, creating a self-sufficient program that would not add to the federal budget, according to an aide to Gillibrand.

“The expected cost to the average worker would be similar to the expense of one tall latte a week,” the senator’s office said.

Welcome to the discussion.