Family members often take time away from work to care for loved ones with disabilities. Now, a proposal in Congress seeks to ensure that they don’t lose out on Social Security retirement benefits for doing so.

Under a bill known as the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, people who leave their jobs or limit their hours in order to care for a relative would be able to continue accruing credits with Social Security.

Such credits – which are earned for each year of employment – are necessary to qualify for Social Security benefits.

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The proposal calls for caregivers who provide at least 80 hours per month of unpaid assistance to a relative with special needs to be able to earn Social Security credits for up to five years.

The credit would be applied on a sliding scale depending on the caregiver’s earnings, with a maximum credit equal to half of the average national wage.

“Millions of people across the country sacrifice so much to care for loved ones,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who introduced the bill. “Penalizing caregivers by docking the Social Security benefits they count on is backwards.”

In addition to Murphy, the bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and there is a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.

This is not the only bill up for consideration in Congress designed to ease the financial burden on family caregivers. A separate proposal calls for a tax credit of up to $3,000 annually for family members who care for older people and those with disabilities.

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