U.S. Sen. Murphy Promotes Caregiver Act In Visit With Fairfield Seniors

By:  Meredith Guinness
Fairfield Daily Voice

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy spoke with Fairfield senior citizens Tuesday about his proposal for a Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, a move he believes represents a “paradigm shift” in the way Americans define work.

The act would provide modest retirement compensation to those who have left the workforce or reduced their hours to care for a loved one, thereby reducing the amount they are paying into Social Security.

The credit would not pay for lost wages, but it would make sure the caregiver would not be losing the benefits they would receive upon retirement, Murphy told those gathered.

“This would, at least, remove the punishment,” he said.

Originally co-sponsored by Vermont senator-turned-presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, the act would benefit the estimated 65 million Americans who will spend some of their work years caring for a loved one.

Studies show that, on average, total wage, private pensions and Social Security losses due to caregiving total more than $300,000, which can threaten retirement security, according to Murphy.

Women make up about two-thirds of unpaid caregivers. More than half of Connecticut residents age 40 and older say they have cared for an adult loved one on an unpaid basis at one time, Murphy said.

The bill has been endorsed by several affected organizations, including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Organization for Women, the National Council on Aging and The Arc of the United States. A companion bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) in the House has 54 co-sponsors.

“When family caregivers have to take time out of the workforce to fulfill caregiving roles, they should not be penalized,” stated Joe Caldwell, director of long-term services and supports policy at the National Council on Aging. “This legislation values their vital contributions to loved ones and society by protecting their future economic security in later life.”

With Connecticut’s 65-and-over population set to grow by 57 percent by 2040, Murphy said the time is now to address this situation.

“This is really an organic effort,” he said. “We’ll cross our fingers that we can really get some traction on this issue.”