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AARP-ND Prepares Priorities for New Legislature

North Dakota lawmakers head back to Bismarck on Jan. 3, 2019. (Jim Bowen/Flickr)
North Dakota lawmakers head back to Bismarck on Jan. 3, 2019. (Jim Bowen/Flickr)
December 26, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. — With the state's legislative session around the corner, AARP North Dakota is laying out priorities it would like to see lawmakers accomplish in 2019.

Mike Chaussee, associate state director for AARP North Dakota, said top of the list is helping folks age in their own homes, which is the preference for an overwhelming majority of North Dakotans. One component of that is supporting caregivers, who often are family members who have to perform complex medical tasks.

Chaussee said his group is supporting legislation that would help prepare caregivers for these tasks.

"One of the big pieces of legislation that we know we're going to fight for is what we call the CARE Act, which really just asks hospitals to make sure that the caregivers can do the best job they can do when they go home with the people that they're caring for,” Chaussee said.

AARP North Dakota also wants the state to channel resources toward home- and community-based services so that people can age in place more easily.

Another big concern is taxation of Social Security benefits. North Dakota is one of 13 states that taxes benefits – and one of only three that taxes these benefits at the same, full level as the federal government.

Chaussee said it's an obvious burden on many older folks. According to data from 2014, 45 percent of North Dakotans rely on Social Security for half of their income.

"I can honestly say that the number of phone calls that I received about, 'Hey, here's an issue you should be paying attention to' - the Social Security tax was number one in the interim between the two sessions,” he said.

AARP North Dakota also wants to see the state reinvest in the Housing Incentive Fund, which creates a partnership between the state and private industry to encourage developers to build low- and moderate-income housing. Chaussee said affordable housing is an important issue.

"We know people need to find affordable places to live in communities across the state,” he said. “And the Housing Incentive Fund has helped fund a number of pretty cool projects."

The program ran out of funds this year, but Gov. Doug Burgum has proposed investing $20 million. North Dakota's legislative session begins January 3.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND