Most Americans understand that Social Security is a vital tool for our economy and for millions of retired Americans. In 2011, our Social Security system kept more than 21 million people out of poverty, especially women of color and women who work at low-wage jobs.
Caregiver benefits are an essential service for children, the ill, the disabled, and the elderly, as well as for caregivers themselves. Put yourself in a minimum-wage earning woman’s shoes for a second. You’ve just had a child a few months ago and, on top of that, your mother has fallen severely ill. Of course you want to take time out of the workforce to care for both your child and your mother, but how can you afford to?
Without caregiver credit, not only does a caregiver lose time (and money) in his or her current job, but also that worker can be hurt later during retirement. Social Security benefits are based on a worker’s highest 35 years of earnings, and those benefits can be reduced because of fewer paid employment years and lower wages during employment.
Unfortunately, women are at a higher risk of falling into this trap. Women make up anywhere between 59-75% of caregivers during a given year. Although some men are caregivers as well, female caregivers may spend as much as 50 percent more time providing care to loved ones. Most of the time, these women are over the age of 40, married and working outside of the home, for an annual income of $35,000.
Women already have a hard enough time as is: limited employment opportunities, lower wages, longer life expectancy and fewer sources of retirement income. All of these factors contribute to women relying more on Social Security later in life, while simultaneously receiving fewer Social Security benefits and annual incomes than men.
Caregiver credit will ensure that workers are not penalized in retirement despite time out of the workforce as an unpaid caregiver. Take NOW’s action and ask your representative to cosponsor the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act (H.R. 5024).