Respite Care Reauthorization Passes in the Senate

On February 24, 2020, the Senate passed legislation authored by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) to support the health and wellbeing of family caregivers. Senator Collins requested unanimous consent that the Senate advance the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act (S.995). The bill now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

The House of Representatives had previously passed H.R.2035, the House companion bill to S.995), back on July 24, 2019. H.R.2035 provided a much larger authorization amount for the program than what the Senate was willing to pass. Therefore, S.995 will need to be passed by the House before the bill can go to President Trump for his signature.

“In my conversations with family caregivers, I have found what they need most is respite care, a break from the 24/7 job of caregiving. Caregivers provide an estimated $470 billion in uncompensated care each year. Yet, an astounding 85 percent of caregivers have not received any respite services at all,” said Senator Collins. “Respite care is essential to caregivers as it helps to reduce mental stress and physical health issues they may experience. With Senate passage of our bill, we are one step closer to giving family caregivers and their loved ones the support they need by ensuring that quality respite is available and accessible.”

The lifespan respite care program provides grant funding to the states to assist family caregivers of children and adults with special needs in accessing affordable respite care. As amended, it would also authorize $10 annually for fiscal years 2020 through fiscal 2024 for such programs.

The bill also would require states agencies that receive grants to monitor and evaluate programs and report their data to the secretary of Health and Human Services in order to determine the effectiveness of respite care programs on a state-by-state basis.

It also would require the secretary, no later than Oct. 1, 2023, to submit a report to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the House Energy and Commerce committees regarding the outcomes of the programs and activities funded under the bill.