Florida Congressmen Back Darren Soto’s Guardianship Accountability Act

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla., is getting the support of two congressmen from the Sunshine State for his “Guardianship Accountability Act.”

Soto introduced the bill at the end of last week with U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., Charlie Crist, D-Fla., Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., as co-sponsors.

The bill “supports the approximately 1.3 million adults, mostly seniors and people with disabilities, who are currently under the care of guardians by enacting protections from the risks of abuse or neglect” and “implements further oversight and enacts data collection measures to hold guardians accountable in response to reports indicating an increasing number of fraud cases and financial exploitation from guardians towards vulnerable populations.”

Soto showcased the proposal this week.

“Congress must act to protect our most vulnerable community members and ensure that they receive the support they deserve,” said Soto on Tuesday. “Our Central Florida community has experienced firsthand how inadequate protections against bad actors can lead to tragedy. In 2019, abuse by a former guardian led to the horrible, preventable death of one of our seniors. We must pass this bipartisan legislation to strengthen safeguards against abuse and address the failings of our nation’s guardianship system.”

“It is said that the strength of a society can be judged based upon how it treats its most vulnerable populations. We’ve seen from recent examples in the news, and alarming rates of elder abuse throughout Pasco and Pinellas Counties, that guardianship is an area where we can and must do better to protect seniors,” said Bilirakis. “Our bill will provide additional resources, strengthen protections, and improve intergovernmental coordination to achieve this paramount objective.”

“Toxic guardianships, like that of entrapped Britney Spears, are sadly prevalent across Florida and the country. Lack of data and accountability is one of the biggest hindrances in our fight to protect those in the guardianship system. As the son to two senior parents, I can’t fathom either of them being caught in these horrific circumstances,” said Crist. “That’s why I’m proud to co-introduce this legislation with Rep. Soto that directs the Elder Justice Coordinating Council to collect and publish data on guardianships and conservatorships. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants to states for guardianship oversight programs and establishes a federal guardianship resource center — all towards the goal of eliminating guardianship fraud abuse.”

The bill “would help ensure individuals under the care of guardians are not at risk of abuse or neglect by expanding the availability of federal demonstration grants to be used for developing state guardianship databases to assist with the collection of information on guardians, training of court visitors, and sharing of background check and other information with appropriate entities.” Soto’s proposal would also create a National Resource Center on Guardianship to compile information for guardians and those under guardianship, including creating databases and training materials.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. Over in the U.S. Senate, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey, D-Penn., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, are championing the legislation.

KEVIN DERBY
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