By John Michaelson
Minnesota News Connection
ST. PAUL (Feb. 25, 2014) — The gavel comes down today to open the 2014 legislative session and, while the agenda is full, one focus will be on Minnesota’s ever-growing population of unpaid family caregivers.
There are almost 700,000 people in the state now providing care for family or friends, and AARP Minnesota is supporting efforts to help them with economic security and workplace flexibility, according to state director Will Phillips.
“It’s really making sure that we’re providing supports and that we’re providing some very basic protections and some benefits for folks who are providing an incredibly valuable service, not only to loved ones, but to the state itself,” he said.
The estimated value of unpaid family caregivers to the Minnesota economy is nearly $9 billion annually.
Other legislation to be considered this session would set up a state-run retirement program for those who don’t have the financial requirements for most private options and don’t have access to plans at work.
“In Minnesota, there are more than 1.2 million people, or about 40 percent of all workers, who don’t have any access to a workplace savings program,” Phillips said. “And when that’s the case we see that people are completely unprepared for retirement.”
AARP Minnesota also will be guarding against any bills that could lead to what Phillips calls an unfair deregulation in telecommunications.
“Specifically, what we’re worried about is making sure that people who depend on a landline for the ability to reach out and to talk to family members, to talk to loved ones, in an emergency situation, that they continue to have access to reliable and affordable phone service.”
Phillips said the cost of utilities is a concern as well, as they continue to take a larger portion of the household budget for many across Minnesota, especially those aged 50 and older.
Minnesota Legislature information is at leg.state.mn.us.