Fewer than 40% of U.S. workers have short-term paid leave, according to a poll by Opinion Works. (Adobe stock)

As Caregivers Enter Stressful Holidays, MD Leave Bill to Ease Burden

By: Diane Bernard, Public News Service 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – America is facing a caregiving crisis with more than 40 million people providing uncompensated care for relatives every year. As we enter the holiday season, a stressful time for caregivers, family advocates in Maryland are pushing state legislators to pass a paid-leave bill to alleviate the crisis.

The Time to Care Act will provide partial income to caregivers in the private sector – compensating for a provision the federal Family Leave and Medical Act lacks – according to Tammy Bresnahan, director of advocacy with AARP Maryland.

She says her group’s research shows that more women than men take time off to care for a relative.

“They’re usually caregivers between the ages of 45 and, say, 60,” says Bresnahan. “And sometimes they’re older but they’re right in the middle of their career. So this bill will give them that 12 weeks of protected leave, but with a little bit of pay to go along with it.”

She says the bill was put forward in last year’s General Assembly but didn’t pass. AARP Maryland is making passage a top priority in the 2020 session.

Jim Campbell – president of AARP Maryland’s volunteers – says the Time to Care Act supports caregivers for up to 12 weeks and is set up as an insurance fund, operating like unemployment insurance where employees and employers both pay into the pool.

The average cost to workers would be in the range of three to five dollars per week.

He points out that without paid time off, elders are dying alone and families are confronting financial trouble because they lose income while taking care of relatives. Campbell says the crisis has hit the state especially hard.

“In Maryland, we happen to have about three-quarters of a million people that are family caregivers in one way or another – taking care of an older relative, a younger family member,” says Campbell.

A recent poll shows that 86% of Maryland voters are in favor of the bill. In Prince George’s County, 94% of voters favor the proposal.

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