Interest in a new pilot project that offers financial support to Hawaii's working caregivers is extremely high, and now a couple of proposals to provide additional funding are advancing at the state Capitol.
A House committee on Tuesday approved a measure that would provide $2 million for the Kupuna Caregivers Program which is designed to help keep people in the workforce. A Senate companion bill asks for $4 million.
"There are over 154,000 caregivers in the state and about 50 percent of them are working a full-time job and also taking care of somebody at home. This is important because it helps those people stay employed," said Pedro Haro, Hawaii advocacy director for Caring Across Generations.
Cynthia Goto shared her experience with lawmakers. She is a caregiver for her 86-year-old mother and 96-year-old grandfather. Both of them have Alzheimer's disease.
"I am grateful to be able to help take care of them because they took care of us as we were growing up," she said. "So my sister and I do the best we can."
The current funding of $600,000 is expected to cover 50 to 135 people statewide, but there have been more than 1,500 inquiries since the program's launch two months ago.
People who are employed while also caring for kupuna may be eligible for services such as adult day care and meal delivery that are valued at up to $70 per day.
"We're going through each one, assessing each individual person's needs to find out how we can best help the caregiver," said Caroline Cadirao, grants manager in the state's Executive Office on Aging.
Two people on Maui have already been enrolled and seven others on Kauai and Maui have been authorized for services.
To be eligible, caregivers must be employed at least 30 hours a week and provide direct care to a senior citizen who is a U.S. citizen or a qualified alien.
The care recipient must be at least 60 years old and not be covered by any comparable government or community-based care service, except Kupuna Care services.
The recipient cannot live in a long-term care facility.