Obama’s Middle Class Task Force Recommendations Include Caregiver Initiative and Retirement Funds Security

obamaOne year ago, President Obama appointed a Task Force on the Middle Class to create a plan to help middle class families get back on their feet and bring our economy out of recession. Recently, this task force announced its recommendations, which included a $102.5 million Caregiver Initiative, and a plan to secure your retirement funds.

Support for Family Caregivers:
It is estimated that 38 million Americans provide unpaid care for an aging relative. Many of these caregivers have other jobs and small children to care for as well. The $102.5 million Caregiver Initiative would add $52 million to the Department of Health and Human Service’s budget for caregiver support programs and $50 million to programs that provide transportation help, adult day care, and in-home services for the elderly. Providing more government support for these programs will hopefully help lower costs so that caregivers of aging relatives can get the help they need and focus more on their jobs and immediate families. The Caregiver Initiative will also allow more seniors to stay in their homes with safe, reliable care, without placing an undue burden on their loved ones.

Retirement Security:
It is estimated that 78 million working Americans lack employer-based retirement plans. This means that about one half of all working Americans are either not saving for retirement or are being forced into doing so through private mechanisms that do not afford them certain key benefits. The task force is recommending that the Obama Administration establish a system of automatic IRA direct deposits where employers will be required to enroll their employees in an IRA program unless the employees opt out. Under the recommendation, eligible families will receive funds matching their contributions through the Savers Tax Credit. For families making under $65,000, the Savers Tax Credit will match 50% of the first $1,000 contributions, and a partial credit will be allowed for families making up to $85,000. This credit will also be a refundable credit, meaning that even if the taxpayers do not owe any taxes, they will be able to reap the full benefit of the credit.

Finally, the task force developed other recommendations to improve the transparency of 401(k) plans. This heightened level of transparency is meant to ensure that workers and plan sponsors have information they need to ensure that they are receiving investment, record-keeping, and other services at a fair price. Obviously, the first question here is: what information will be provided? Will workers receive invoices that show where all their fees are being spent? Or, will these documents show where their fees are being spent AND what other plans charge for the same services? How much will these recommendations actually improve transparency? All of the recommendations must go through Congress before anything will happen, so only time will tell.

Other recommendations concerning 401(k) plans include: encouraging plan sponsors to give unbiased investment advice to workers, making annuities and other forms of guaranteed lifetime income more available, and requiring clear disclosure on target-date funds. These recommendations are not ironed out clearly yet, and Congress is likely to spend a great amount of time working through them.

The full fact sheet on the recommendations presented by the task force includes recommendations on expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit and making college more affordable.

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