MADISON, Wis. - Nearly 580,000 Wisconsin residents are unpaid family caregivers, according to AARP Wisconsin, and the group is renewing its call for state lawmakers to ease the financial burden they face.
Legislation has been introduced to provide a tax credit of $500 for certain expenses incurred by family caregivers. Despite bipartisan support, previous efforts have failed in the Legislature, largely because of cost concerns. However, Helen Marks Dicks, AARP Wisconsin issues advocacy director, said it shouldn't be looked at as only a budget issue. "It's a gesture towards acknowledging how much work family caregivers are actually doing to keep their family members in the community," she said.
To ease the concerns of opponents worried about the cost of a tax credit, Dicks said the plan has been modified in multiple ways. The amount is $500 lower than the initial proposal. It's been crafted as a pilot project for a single tax season, to see how many people would actually use it.
Over the summer, Wisconsin adopted a two-year budget, but next month's revenue forecast could pave the way for a supplemental spending bill. Dicks said family caregivers spend an average of $7,000 a year out-of-pocket on expenses related to caring for loved ones -- and the scope of what they do has evolved amid an aging population. "Some of the tasks are relatively simple -- you know, grocery shopping and transportation," she said, "but we also have people doing very complex medical care, including feeding tubes, home dialysis, wound care, medication management."
A recent AARP survey of 1,000 registered Wisconsin voters found nearly 90% approve of the tax-credit idea. The legislation is online at legis.wisconsin.gov.