14,000 Maine family caregivers could finally get credit for their work under new bill

A legislative proposal to expand the earned income tax credit (EITC) to include those who forgo paid work to care for a loved could put money in the hands of thousands of Maine family caregivers who often struggle to pay their bills.

Rep. Maureen “Mo” Terry (D-Gorham) has introduced a bill that would include full-time students and unpaid family caregivers in a new state version of the tax credit, called the Maine Work Credit. Roughly 14,400 unpaid family caregivers, most of them women, would qualify for the credit, according to the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

In a Maine AARP survey released last spring, more than half of family caregivers said they use their own money to help their loved ones, are emotionally stressed, and struggle to balance working full- or part-time while caring for a family member. In 2013, the economic value of unpaid caregiving work in the U.S. was estimated to be at least $470 billion.

Jessica Browne, a family caregiver living in Belfast, has to work as a self-employed tutor to support and stay home with her 64-year-old mother, who has dementia. Receiving extra money as part of her tax return without worrying about being denied Medicaid funds “would be a load off,” she says.

The idea of expanding the definition of work to include unpaid caregivers is gaining momentum nationally. Presidential candidates including Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have said they are favor of broadening the federal EITC to include caregivers, and California, Illinois, and Washington are considering similar state-level bills.

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