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Giving Granite State Caregivers Credit Where It's Due

PHOTO: A measure pending in Congress would provide an earnings credit to account for time lost on the job while taking care of children, seniors or a family member with a disability. Photo courtesy AARP.
PHOTO: A measure pending in Congress would provide an earnings credit to account for time lost on the job while taking care of children, seniors or a family member with a disability. Photo courtesy AARP.
August 11, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. - Women still do the majority of care-giving in the Granite State. Local advocates say time lost at work not only costs them wages but reduces future retirement income.

A measure pending in Congress is hoping to rectify that by giving Social Security credit to those who lose time at work while caring for a loved one.

Stephen Gorin, executive director with the National Association of Social Workers in New Hampshire, says the legislation would provide an earnings credit for Social Security purposes for the hours a person loses from their paid job when they must take time off to care for family members.

"Many times women are forced to cut back on their working hours, or sometimes leave the workforce completely and that impacts their Social Security benefits," Gorin said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention one in five families in the United States juggles care-giving responsibilities. Gorin adds women are the most likely to end up in poverty, due to a combination of lower wages and breaks in their career due to demands of being a primary caretaker.

Kary Jencks, executive director with New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, says in 2012 a woman's average Social Security income in retirement was about $12,000, compared to more than $16,000 for men. She thinks the measure pending in Congress would start to level the playing field.

"Essentially, the caregiver credit would provide an earnings credit while an individual is caring for a child under a certain age, a senior or a disabled family member," she said.

Jencks and her husband are among those facing reduced retirement income, because both had to leave full-time jobs to care for family members.

"Pretty much immediately after giving birth to my first child, I had to provide care to my grandmother and my mother," she said.

According to the CDC the typical family caregiver is a 46-year-old woman who provides more than 20 hours a week of unpaid care. The Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2014 was introduced by New York Congresswoman Nita Lowey and is co-sponsored by New Hampshire Congresswoman Ann Kuster.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH