FAIRFIELD — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy chose the town’s Bigelow Center for Senior Activities to discuss a new bill he has proposed that would provide unpaid caregivers with Social Security credits.
The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act would allow people who leave the workforce, or cut back to part-time hours, to provide care for a relative, or even a neighbor, to receive up to five years of Social Security credit.
“The legislation is pretty simple,” Murphy said during his Tuesday appearance. “It simply recognizes there are different kinds of work.”
He said the credits would be also be available to parents who stay at home to care for a disabled child, and Murphy envisions the credit being retroactive.
“This will probably be part of a broader discussion of the future of Social Security,” Murphy said. “Social Security is not going bankrupt tomorrow.” He said one way to pay for this program, as well as ensure Social Security’s continued viability, is to increase the income level subject to Social Security taxation.
Murphy said history shows that, at one time, about 90 percent of all income was taxed for Social Security, but that has dropped to about 80 percent. “If you just adjusted the cap back to the 90 percent” level, he said, Social Security would remain solvent and benefits could be expanded.
According to Murphy, it would be up to Social Security to come up with an application process, and determine the documentation needed. He has proposed an income cap, meaning only those making under the state average income would be eligible for the credits.
Currently, Murphy said about one in seven state residents provide some sort of unpaid care, and in the process, losing future retirement funds. “Penalizing caregivers by docking the Social Security benefits they count on is backwards,” Murphy said. On average, he said, unpaid caregivers lose about $300,000 in Social Security credits, and a disproportionate number of them are women.
“Connecticut is the seventh oldest state in nation,” Murphy said. “We’re going to need a lot of support.”
The proposed legislation has been endorsed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Arc of the United States, the National Organization for Women, the National Council on Aging, Caring Across Generations, the Sibling Leadership Network, the National Alliance for Caregiving, the Center for Community Change Action and Social Security Works.