Lawmakers are looking to dramatically increase federal funding to support respite care for families of those with disabilities and other special needs.

A bipartisan bill introduced this month known as the Lifespan Respite Care Reauthorization Act of 2019, or H.R.2035, would tag $200 million over the next five years to boost respite care services across the country.

The legislation is an effort to reauthorize an existing law that’s been on the books since 2006 while adding significant investment. Under the measure, $20 million would be authorized for fiscal year 2020 and then funding would increase by $10 million per year, ultimately reaching $60 million in fiscal year 2024.

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That’s substantially more than the $2.5 million allocated by Congress annually since 2009.

“Caring for a loved one in need can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also take a physical, emotional and financial toll on families,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who introduced the House of Representatives version of the bill. “Respite care provides temporary relief from the full-time task of family caregiving and is one of the support services most frequently requested by family caregivers. By expanding access to respite services, this legislation will improve caregiver health and reduce the financial strain on families, our health care system and the taxpayer.”

There are estimated to be over 40 million Americans providing care to loved ones with various disabilities or health conditions, lawmakers said. Under the existing law, the federal government has provided grants to 37 states and Washington, D.C. to streamline the delivery of services, coordinate resources and offer training to respite providers and family caregivers.

Jill Kagan, director of the ARCH National Respite Coalition which helps administer the federal government’s respite care efforts, said they are working to bring the program to every state.

In addition to Langevin, the House bill is sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. A Senate version was introduced by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.

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