Survey shows high demand for caregiver support before Virginia elections

With Virginia’s general elections less than 24 hours away, one issue concerning likely voters is how state leaders plan to support family caregivers in the state. A recently released survey from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Virginia found that many “likely” voters would support proposals for paid leave and tax credits for family caregivers — policies that Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Younkin have proposed in their election campaigns.

 

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The survey involved 800 Virginians aged 18+ who were likely to vote in the elections. It found that 73% of respondents supported paid family for workers caring for a family member with a “serious health condition.” Even more respondents (84%) would support financial assistance for family caregivers in the form of tax credits to help offset care expenses. 

 

Image: AARP Virginia

 

McAuliffe, a Democrat and former governor from 2014-2018, has included paid family leave for caregivers in his 2021 campaign platform. His affordable health care plan highlights the impact of the pandemic on Virginia’s long term care facilities: 

“These facilities also continue to experience staffing shortages at alarming rates, making it difficult to ensure the highest quality of care. We have to do better for our most vulnerable community members.”

In an October AARP interview with both candidates, Youngkin, a Republican, said he would support caregivers with a tax credit. 

“There needs to be a way to recognize this great responsibility that people are actually taking on and I do think that it’s really worth investigating and assessing the tax credit associated with being a caregiver. I do believe there’s some real value there.”

A majority (58%) of survey respondents said they currently are or were a family caregiver. AARP Virginia State Director, Jim Dau, expressed the impact of caregiver support across the state in a statement to election candidates.

“Almost all of us have been, will be, or will need a family caregiver, but for too many elected officials, we’re hiding in plain sight. Voters want their leaders to recognize—and more importantly support—family caregivers for their service and sacrifice.”

Approximately one million caregivers in Virginia provide 870 hours of unpaid care per year, which is equivalent to $11.2 billion, according to the 2019 AARP Public Policy Institute report.

The candidates’ proposals for family caregivers would supplement the state’s ongoing long-term care workforce shortage. Other strategies from the legislature have focused more on nursing shortages, including support for temporary nursing aides (TNAs) and increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing home staff.

A majority of respondents of different political ideologies supported caregiver benefits: 80% of liberals, 74% of moderates, and 61% of conservatives. Nearly three in four conservatives supported tax credits in particular. 

Recent polls estimate Youngkin has a 1% lead over McAuliffe, as of Nov.1.