By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts
AARP Massachusetts has been hard at work building and training a special group of volunteers to join our effective advocacy team across Massachusetts. AARP held a volunteer advocacy workshop in mid-June for prospective volunteers. In the daylong session, volunteers learned about strategic planning and tactical organizing, identifying problems and solving issues and left with a deeper understanding of our priority legislative issues. Specifically, advocates heard more about the Caregiving Tax Credit and Secure Choice/Work and Save bills, and Stop RxGreed, our campaign to lower prescription drug prices.
This bill, which made it to the end of the legislative process last year without a vote, would establish a tax credit that reimburses caregivers for a portion of what they spend to care for a loved one at home.
A recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute shows that the average family caregiver spends almost $7,000 a year out-of-pocket to help care for their loved ones, which amounts to, on average, 20 percent of their total income. An Act to Establish the Family Caregiver Tax Credit would establish a tax credit, capped at $1,500 per year, which reimburses family members for a portion of qualified expenses related to caring for adult family members who need assistance with activities of daily living.
Massachusetts family caregivers provided 786 million hours of unpaid care, valued at about $11.6 billion, in 2015. Most people who receive assistance at home rely exclusively on unpaid family caregivers for help. Some 69 percent of Massachusetts adults report feeling stressed while trying to balance a job and their caregiving responsibilities. More than half (55 percent) of family caregivers report being overwhelmed by the amount of care their family member needs.
House Bill 1075/Senate Bill 602 – An Act to Establish the Massachusetts Secure Choice Retirement Program and Expand the Massachusetts CORE Plan to All Employers
Nearly half of workers in Massachusetts have no access to a retirement savings plan through their employers. A secure retirement is out of reach for over one million Massachusetts residents, especially those who work for themselves or small businesses. While Social Security is a critical piece of the puzzle, it is not enough to depend on. Many future retirees will not be able to handle the rising cost of basic needs and health care.
An Act to Establish the Massachusetts Secure Choice Retirement Program and Expand the Massachusetts CORE Plan to All Employers would expand the existing “Connecting Organizations to Retirement” (CORE) plan so that all employers could participate. The Act would also create the Massachusetts Secure Choice Retirement Program. Secure Choice makes it easier for businesses to offer employees a way to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck, and it is an easy, stress-free way to grow retirement savings so you can take control of your future.
The advocacy volunteers also heard about Stop Rx Greed, an AARP campaign to lower prescription drug prices. Attendees learned about the issue and possible policy solutions, such as bulk purchasing of prescription drugs, state importation of prescription drugs from other countries, and setting caps on out-of-pocket costs.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer advocate for AARP Massachusetts and missed the training, you can still get involved! There are four steps to joining the AARP Advocacy Volunteer Team:
- Become an e-activist – Receive emails from AARP on national and state advocacy issues, and use our tools to contact your elected officials on a wide variety of issues. Become an e-activist at aarp.org/getinvolved.
- Join our First Friday Calls– Get the latest news and updates out of Washington DC and the Massachusetts State House. Join AARP Staff and leadership volunteers as we discuss what’s happening right now, and what you can do to make a difference. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for call information.
- Meet with your elected officials – AARP Massachusetts organizes visits with our Members of Congress and state legislators multiple times a year. Become an E-Activist and join our monthly calls to learn about upcoming meetings and chances for you to interact with elected officials.
- Register as an AARP volunteer – AARP Activists who participate in meetings with elected officials and other volunteer activity are offered mileage reimbursement for their work with AARP. Volunteers also receive access to news updates, resources, and a national monthly call on volunteer activity across the states. To register as a volunteer, email email@example.com, call 1-866-448-3621, or speak with a member of the AARP staff.