Senate passes Collins’ bipartisan, bicameral bill to fund respite for 45M family caregivers

The U.S. Senate on Feb. 24 unanimously approved bicameral, bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to reauthorize the Lifespan Respite Care Program through fiscal year (FY) 2024.

Sen. Collins in April 2019 sponsored the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019, S. 995, with lead cosponsor U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to support the health and well-being of the nation’s 45 million family caregivers, according to her office.

“With Senate passage of our bill, we are one step closer to giving family caregivers and their loved ones the support they need by ensuring that quality respite is available and accessible,” Sen. Collins said on Monday.

If enacted, S. 995 would authorize $10 million annually for the Lifespan Respite Care Program from FY 2020 through FY 2024.

“In my conversations with family caregivers, I have found what they need most is respite care, a break from the 24/7 job of caregiving,” said Sen. Collins. “Caregivers provide an estimated $470 billion in uncompensated care each year. Yet, an astounding 85 percent of caregivers have not received any respite services at all.”

Such care is essential to caregivers, she said, “as it helps to reduce mental stress and physical health issues they may experience.”

The Senate-approved S. 995 on Feb. 25 was received in the U.S. House of Representatives, which will reconcile the measure with the same-named H.R. 2035, which the House approved in July 2019 and sent later that month to the Senate.

A group of 100 national, state and local organizations from across the country sent a Feb. 24 letter of support for the bill to congressional leaders, and has garnered the support of numerous other groups, including the Autism Society of America, the ARCH National Respite Coalition, AARP, and the National Alliance for Caregiving, among others.