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Caregivers in California aren’t taking full advantage of the state’s Paid Family Leave benefit as they fulfill care duties for loved ones, according to a new report by the California Work and Family Commission and Human Impact Partners.

Donna Benton

Donna Benton, director of the USC Family Caregiver Support Center at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, served on the advisory committee for the project. The team found that eligible caregivers didn’t use the Paid Family Leave benefit for several reasons, including insufficient wage replacement or job protection, confusion during the application process, or lack of knowledge of the program’s existence. The benefit provides partial pay for six weeks to eligible individuals caring for a new child or ill family member and is funded by payroll taxes to the State Disability Insurance program.

Benton also recently shared her caregiving expertise in a video interview for an Associated Press-NORC report on the impacts of caregiving in the US.

“Caregivers are the backbone of our long-term care system. If we didn’t have family caregivers with unpaid help, our healthcare system would pretty much collapse,” Benton said. “Caregiving touches everybody at some point in their life.”

Professor Kate Wilber

The new report follows a July 2018 report by the California Task Force on Family Caregiving, which Benton chairs, that also highlighted the low rate of paid leave claims among family caregivers in the state. Just 11.6 percent of the state’s paid leave claims between March 2017 and April 2018 were taken by family caregivers, and only 36 percent of California voters were aware the program existed, according to the task force report.

“As part of our work with the California Task Force on Family Caregiving, researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology have been investigating the extent of compensation provided for family caregivers and the support they receive from their employers—or lack thereof—during difficult times,” said Kate Wilber, Mary Pickford Foundation Professor of Gerontology at the USC Leonard Davis School and  the administrative leader of the state caregiving task force. “Without supports like paid family leave, caregivers are often forced to leave the workforce entirely, leading to $3 trillion in estimated wage losses.”

Top photo: Ocskay Mark/Shutterstock

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