Baker's Caregiver Support Program bill passes Senate
HARRISBURG - Rep. Matt Baker's (R-Bradford/Tioga) bill to update Pennsylvania's Family Caregiver Support Program to include non-relative caregivers and bring the state program in line with its federal counterpart was unanimously passed by the state Senate this week and now heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law.
Pennsylvania's Family Caregiver Support Act, established in 1990, provides benefits and services for eligible caregivers who care for functionally dependent relatives 60 years of age and older, as well as adults with chronic dementia such as Alzheimer's who are 18 years of age and older.
"Making updates to this legislation so that more individuals can get the care they need while remaining in their homes has been a mission of mine for the past decade," said Baker. "This program provides financial support, counseling services and training programs for those who are giving care to another individual. As someone who served as a caregiver for a family member, I understand the many challengers caregivers face, which is why the services provided through this program are so important."
House Bill 210 would increase the maximum amount allowable under the program for out-of-pocket expenses from $200 per month to $500 per month.
In addition to out-of-pocket expenses, the program also provides grants of up to $2,000 for home modifications such as ramps and chair lifts.
"Nursing and personal care homes are essential and many senior citizens today reside in them; however, they are expensive and most individuals would rather be cared for at home," said Baker. "That's why the Pennsylvania Family Caregiver Support Program is so valuable."
Baker said one of the most significant changes under his bill is that it alters the definition of caregiver to include non-relative caregivers. In addition, it removes the requirement that a caregiver must live with the care recipient. This brings the Pennsylvania program in line with what is offered through the National Family Caregiver Support Program.
"More and more in today's society, families are living father apart and often a friend or neighbor is relied upon to assist with the care of an elderly individual," said Baker. "Now, under House Bill 210, that person would be eligible to be reimbursed for his or her out-out-pocket expenses the same as a family member would."
Baker noted that the caregiver program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery along with federal sources. In the 2011-12 fiscal year the program is being allocated a total of $22.1 million, with $12.1 million coming from the lottery and $10 million coming from the federal government.
House Bill 210 also would officially change the name of the state program from the Family Caregiver Support Program to the Pennsylvania Caregiver Support Program.
House Bill 210 is expected to be signed into law by the governor in the coming weeks.
Submitted by Rep. Matt Baker