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U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Susan Collins Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Support the Health and Wellbeing of Family Caregivers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today introduced the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation to support the health and wellbeing of family caregivers. This bipartisan bill would authorize $20 million for Fiscal Year 2020, with funding increasing by $10 million annually in order to reach $60 million for Fiscal Year 2024, for the Lifespan Respite Care program. This important program allows full-time caregivers to take a temporary break from their responsibilities caring for aging or disabled loved ones. A companion bill was introduced in the House today by Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).

“Every day, family caregivers in Wisconsin and across our country tend to the needs of their loved ones,” said Senator Baldwin. “The work of caregivers can also be emotionally and physically challenging so we need to do more to support them. This legislation will help ensure continued funding for the Lifespan Respite Care Program so that our family caregivers can access the support and relief they need.”

“Every day, an estimated 45 million family caregivers attend to loved ones who are experiencing chronic, disabling health conditions. Caregivers help their loved ones remain at home, often delaying the need for nursing home or foster care placements. This compassionate task, however, can take a toll.  Often due to a lack of support, caregivers experience higher mortality rates and are more likely to acquire acute and chronic health conditions,” said Senator Collins. “Respite care is essential to caregivers as it helps to reduce mental stress and physical health issues they may experience.  Our bipartisan bill would give family caregivers and their loved ones the support they need by ensuring that quality respite is available and accessible.”

“Caring for a loved one in need can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also take a physical, emotional, and financial toll on families,” said Congressman Langevin. “Respite care provides temporary relief from the full time task of family caregiving and is one of the support services most frequently requested by family caregivers. By expanding access to respite services, this legislation will improve caregiver health and reduce the financial strain on families, our health care system, and the taxpayer.” 

Respite care provides temporary relief to caregivers from their ongoing responsibilities. By protecting the health of caregivers, respite care decreases the need for professional long-term care and allows individuals who require care to remain at home. To date, 37 states have received funding through the Lifespan Respite Care program. The program provides competitive grants to states to establish or enhance statewide respite resources and help ensure that quality respite is available and accessible to all family caregivers.

The Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019 is endorsed by 48 leading caregiver and respite organizations, including the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center, the American Psychological Association, the Arc of the United States, and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation. 

In Wisconsin, the bipartisan legislation is supported by the Respite Care Association of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (WI-BPDD), Autism Society of Wisconsin, and The Arc Wisconsin.

“The Respite Care Association of Wisconsin offers our fervent support for and endorsement of the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act to reauthorize the Lifespan Respite Care Program at $200 million over five years. We also want to thank you for your leadership in supporting Wisconsin’s family caregivers,” said Lisa Schneider, Executive Director, Respite Care Association of Wisconsin. “We thank you for your commitment to individuals living with disabilities, older individuals in need of assistance and support, and the loved ones who care for them and we look forward to continuing to work with you as the bill moves forward.”

“WI-BPDD strongly supports the increase in Lifespan Respite Reauthorization. Families and caregivers desperately need support to continue to serve and support individuals with disabilities and aging adults,” said Fil Clissa, Program/Policy Analyst for the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities.

There are 45 million family caregivers in the United States that provide an estimated $470 billion in uncompensated care each year.