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Credit for Caring Act Offers Relief for Financially Strained Family Caregivers

Reintroduced bipartisan legislation would provide up to $5,000 tax credit for eligible caregivers

spinner image two photos on the left are barbara and tom tarallo and on the right are diane zonko and her daughter caregiver barbara whisenhunt
Left: Barbara and Tom Tarallo; right: Diane Zonko with her daughter Elizabeth Whisenhunt
Courtesy Barbara Tarallo; Courtesy Elizabeth Whisenhunt

Elizabeth Whisenhunt built a lucrative career in the health care sector — as a clinical educator, nurse and pharmaceuticals rep — before retiring in 2022, a few years shy of her 65th birthday. The reason had nothing to do with her and everything to do with the needs of her mother, whose health was declining.

Over a couple of years, Whisenhunt’s mother, Diane Zonko, 88, faced a series of challenges. Not only was she diagnosed with breast cancer and heart disease (Zonko had a pacemaker implanted for a condition known as second-degree heart block), but she also lost her husband in 2016. Soon after, she moved in with Whisenhunt, who for many years was able to juggle working a full-time job and tending to her mother’s needs.

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However, it became apparent that caring for Zonko would be all-encompassing. In 2022, Whisenhunt quit her job as a clinical educator at a health care company to be a stay-at-home caretaker. Although she welcomed the opportunity to help her mother, it hasn’t been easy. “I shop, cook, clean and bathe her,” says Whisenhunt, who lives in Owasso, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa. “This is a full-time job with no pay. I had to start taking out of my retirement to make ends meet.”

One of more than 48 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S., Whisenhunt spoke out in support of legislation that passed in Oklahoma last year, making it the first state to pass an expansive tax credit for family caregivers. She’ll be watching closely as members of Congress reintroduce the Credit for Caring Act, legislation that would provide a nonrefundable federal tax credit of up to $5,000 for working family caregivers who routinely cut back on their own health care or dip into their savings each year. The bill would help offset a portion of caregiving costs such as home care aides, adult day care, necessary modifications to the home, assistive technology, respite care and transportation. AARP endorses the bill. ​

spinner image James Jacoby, Melissa Axel, Abaree Rayfield and Lynda Filipek advocate for AARP's Credit for Caregiving Act
A team of supporters rally for the Credit for Caring act at the Capitol (pictured, left to right): Rep. Mike Carey, Sen. Shelley Capito, James Jacoby, Melissa Axel, Jay Montgomery “Monty” Brown, Abaree Rayfield, Nancy LeaMond and Sen. Michael Bennet.
Chriss May for AARP

“Increasingly, policymakers are recognizing the vital role that family caregivers play in our health care landscape — and the pressing need to give them more support through new laws and policies,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “Without their unpaid work, America’s system of long-term care would fall apart. Many family caregivers make financial sacrifices, spending thousands of dollars out of their own pockets to care for their loved ones.”

That’s certainly the case with Barbara Tarallo, 61. In 2010, her husband, Tom, now 61, suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motor vehicle accident that left him in a wheelchair and unable to care for himself. Even before the pandemic made working from home the norm, Tarallo, a marketing and events manager for a software company, was allowed to work remotely so she could tend to her husband. A part-time home health aide helps out three days a week.

Tarallo says that if she were unemployed, her husband could qualify for Medicaid, which could help cover adult day care and other benefits. But Tarallo doesn’t know how they would get by without her income. The Credit for Caring Act, “if passed, would help toward the cost of caring for Tom,” says Tarallo, who spends $1,500 a month, on average, paying for Tom’s home health aide, adult briefs, medication and medical appointments, among other things. “This doesn’t include what I’ve had to pay for equipment to care for him or the cost of changes to our home to be able to care for him. The tax credits would help defray some of these costs.”

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According to AARP’s 2023 Valuing the Invaluable report, the economic value of family caregivers’ unpaid contributions was approximately $600 billion in care each year. They do everything from helping prepare meals and paying bills to assisting with medication, medical/nursing tasks and general activities of daily living — most often so the loved ones they’re caring for can continue to live independently in their homes and communities.

“We’re proud to support the bipartisan Credit for Caring Act as one solution to put money back in their pockets and make the big responsibilities of family caregiving a little bit easier,” LeaMond says.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and in the House by Reps. Mike Carey (R-Ohio) and Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.). The next step: The bill will be referred to committees in the House and Senate. 

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