Recently, Congress has debated whether to expand access to respite care, which is a crucial service for many people. If this bill becomes a law, this will deliver some much need relief for individuals who provide caregiving services.

Respite care is a type of short-term relief for primary caregivers. This short-term relief could be for a few hours, days or weeks. The location maybe at their residence as well as in a facility or center. The respite care can also be in response to an emergency situation or planned. In summary, these services include, meal preparation, general supervision as well as hands-on assistance with personal care.

Lawmakers in Congress have presented bills both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would expand access to respite care. Members of Congress are pushing ahead with a plan that would increase federal funding for families. In particular, this is to help families of those with developmental and physical disabilities.

The House passed a similar version of the bill last year. The renewal of the bill would provide $200 million over five years in order to improve respite care services. The Senate approved their own version of the bill in February. The bill is known as the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019 or S.995. The Senate bill would authorize $50 million to be allocated to the Lifespan Respite Care Program.

The program is designed as a nationwide system of community-based respite care services with the funding stretching over the next five years. Congress needs to renew the existing respite law which was signed in 2006. In previous years, respite programs had only received $2.5 million per year.

As of 2020, the Federal government has allocated grants to 37 states as well as the District of Columbia. These grants were intended to better coordinate the use of resources and optimize the delivery of services. The funding also provides training for respite support staff as well as other family caregivers.

Supporters of the Senate version of the bill state that there are roughly 45 million family caregivers for individuals with developmental disabilities in the United States. These caregivers deliver about $470 billion annually in uncompensated personal care services.

Once funding is reauthorized, the new act will permit states programs to provide reduced or free respite services to families who qualify for the service. Most states offer their own versions of respite care programs for qualifying individuals. However, many people are not aware that these programs even exist. According to members of Congress, roughly 85 percent of all caregivers in the U.S. never gain access to respite services.

Federal officials have stated that passage of the bill will give “family caregivers and their loved ones the support they need by ensuring that quality respite is available and accessible.”

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