The Maine Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously on May 24, 2021 to advance a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. Kristen Cloutier, D-Lewiston, that would establish the Family Caregiver Grant Pilot Program. If passed into law, the proposed legislation will give certified family caregivers the opportunity to receive $2,000.

As outlined in the bill, this program would provide caregivers the choice to receive a direct payment for care provided or the use of the existing Respite Care program to access support in the community. The measure would also examine the needs of families served by the Respite Care Fund by requiring the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to establish a stakeholder group to make recommendations for the development of the Family Caregiver Grant Program.

Nearly one in eight Mainers cares for a family member who is older or has a disability. In 2017, it was estimated that family members in Maine provide 152 million hours of unpaid care, worth $2.2 billion annually. Cloutier decided to introduce the legislation after serving as a caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.

“I know from personal experience how hard it can be for family caregivers to decide between keeping their jobs and staying home to help a family member with daily tasks,” said Cloutier. “The program proposed in my bill would provide financial support to the roughly 181,000 Mainers currently caring for a loved one and who need to take time off work in order to do so.”

The bill faces further votes in the House and Senate.

Cloutier is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents part of the City of Lewiston. She sits on the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

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