Our next big fight

May 2, 2016

 Social security and more benefits for parent and spouse providers

El Dorado County IHSS provider Roxanne Bender together with her husband and son.

El Dorado County IHSS provider Roxanne Bender together with her husband and son.

There are four things that all working Americans should be able to rely on: Social Security so that we can meet our basic needs when we retire, Medicare, paid family leave, and unemployment benefits.

But many IHSS providers are not eligible for these vital social safety nets now, or later when we need them most.

That’s because, thanks to a loophole in the Internal Revenue Code, parents and spouse caregivers are not currently allowed to have Federal Insurance Contribution Act (FICA) contributions deducted from our paychecks. FICA is what funds Social Security and Medicare. The same family employment exemption prevents parents and spouse providers from getting unemployment benefits and paid family leave.

“I’ve been my son’s IHSS provider for 20 years,” said El Dorado County UDW member Roxanne Bender. “I’ve worked like everyone else, yet my husband and I may never be able to retire because I don’t qualify for Social Security and Medicare.”

So UDW is fighting for the rights of all providers to have access to these benefits—just like how we fought to be included in the Fair Labor Standards Act so that we could earn overtime pay.

But like our overtime fight, winning these benefits for parent and spouse providers will not be easy or quick, and would involve changes to federal and state laws. To start, our union is sponsoring Assembly Bill 1930, a first step towards educating California lawmakers and the public about this issue and the economic insecurity it creates for thousands of IHSS providers.

“Worrying about my family’s future keeps me up at night,” explained Roxanne, who testified in front of lawmakers in March. “Being excluded from benefits as basic as Social Security and Medicare makes me feel undervalued and underappreciated.”

Share your story! It may help us secure more benefits for spouse and parent providers. If you have been impacted by this issue, email Paulina at [email protected] to tell us your story. You can also stay updated at udwa.org.

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