Legislative Update

AARP MA: Legislative Advocacy Update

By Mike Festa, State Director, AARP Massachusetts

Credit Freeze Bill Closer to Passage

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Mike Festa

Massachusetts House of Representatives recently passed H.B. 4241: An Act Removing Fees for Security Freezes and Disclosures of Consumer Credit Reports, and the Senate has now referred H.B. 4241 and S.B 2304 to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, awaiting recommendation.

On behalf of 800,000 AARP members in Massachusetts, we praise our legislators for their support of this important bill, and urge the Senate to take action to pass the bill.

One of the key provisions of this bill will prevent a consumer reporting agency from charging a fee when a consumer elects to place, suspend, or remove a security freeze from his/her credit report, giving the consumer the power to control access to their credit report without cost.

Older adults are increasingly the target for identity theft, and one of the most effective ways to protect consumers is through a security freeze, which safeguards a person’s credit report. Without access to this information, identity thieves would be unable to obtain credit in that person’s name, minimizing potential for fraud. These bills will go a long way in reducing the threat of identity theft for consumers.

A security freeze allows an individual to voluntarily restrict access to their credit report so that new lines of credit cannot be opened. Enacting such a freeze can make it more difficult for criminals to steal an identity and open up new credit accounts or loans in someone else’s name. A credit report security freeze does not affect a person’s credit score, and can be removed at any time. Currently, credit reporting firms can charge consumers whenever they freeze or unfreeze their credit report, and consumers trying to protect their identities would have to pay each of the three credit agencies every time they freeze or unfreeze their credit.

We thank Representatives Tackey Chan (D-Quincy), Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg), and Senator L’Italien (D-Andover) for their leadership and urge final passage of this bill in the Senate. We strongly encourage Massachusetts residents to call their Massachusetts State Senator at (617) 722-2000 to offer support for this bill.

We look forward to working with all interested parties to ensure the final legislation protects all Massachusetts consumers.

Caregiver Tax Credit Update:

An Act to Establish the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, H.B. 3911, will provide family caregivers with an income tax credit to cover expenses incurred by a taxpayer for the care and support of a qualifying family member. The amount of the credit is equal to 100% of eligible expenses, with a maximum allowable credit of $1,500. The tax credit would help address the financial challenges of caregiving and allow more unpaid family caregivers to keep their family members in the community.

Expenses that would be covered under this bill include:

  • Improvement or alteration to the taxpayer’s primary residence to permit the care recipient to remain mobile, safe, and independent in their home and community.
  • Purchase or lease of equipment necessary to assist an eligible care recipient in carrying out one or more activities of daily living.
  • Hiring a home care aide or personal care attendant, paying for respite care or adult day health.
  • Transportation, legal and financial services, and assistive technology to care for their loved one.

Currently, this bill is in the Health Care Financing Committee. A new committee chairperson has not yet been named to replace the late Rep. Peter Kocot. The committee has until April 25 to report out on bills that started in that committee.

Reprinted from the April 2018 edition of the South Shore Senior News

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