HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers are introducing a bill that could make the state the first in the nation to offer long-term care benefits to seniors.
The bill would provide eligible seniors with a benefit of $70 per day for 365 days, said Democratic Sen. Rosalyn Baker said during a legislative hearing Thursday.
Seniors could use the 365 days of benefits over a number of years.
The reimbursement would help pay family caregivers who have to reduce hours at work to take care of loved ones. It could also be used to hire in-home aides and help offset the cost of safety equipment, like walkers and ramps.
"For the people who have to deal with this on a day to day basis, it's real and it's painful," said Clementina Ceria-Ulep of Faith Action for Community Equity, a non-profit organization that advocates for social justice issues.
The population of people 65 or older is growing four times faster than the Hawaii's total population, according to U.S. Census data from 2014.
Darlene Rodrigues, who cares for her mother with Alzheimer's, said her family struggles to find the income to pay for their mother's care. She said she cut back her hours at work to help care for her mother.
"I worry about the future for my mom," she said. "But perhaps what saddens me the most is that I am getting a clear message that society doesn't value caregivers."
The bill would ask for a 0.5 percent increase in Hawaii's general excise tax to cover the costs. The tax is about 4 percent and it's added to most business transactions in the state.
University of Hawaii political professor Lawrence Nitz says about 25 percent of the tax revenue comes from visitors.