With the state legislative session underway, a coalition advocating for older Washingtonians gathered on Thursday to discuss priorities for 2023.
The “Age Wave Coalition” breakfast in Olympia focused on the issues families and the state face with a rapidly aging population.
Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, a longtime member of the Joint Legislative-Executive Committee on Aging and Disability Issues who spoke at the event, said the long-term benefits program known as the WA Cares Fund will be on the docket this session. The program was paused over concerns some people might pay into it but not receive its benefits.
“It’s just a huge need, because a lot of folks as they retire haven’t been able to save enough money,” Tharinger explained. “This structured savings program, which is really dedicated to long-term care needs, will be very helpful.”
Under the WA Cares program, workers will pay 58 cents for every $100 they make, and have access to up to $36,500 to pay for care services when they retire. Implementation was supposed to start at the beginning of the year, but was delayed until July 1.
Tharinger pointed out one of the WA Cares benefits is it can be used to pay family caregivers. To ensure people can age in place, in their own homes, caregivers will play a critical role. He added it is a good thing the services are becoming seen as more professional, potential career paths.
“The aging population is going to grow, and the younger population, the workforce, is going to shrink,” Tharinger observed. “You’ve got to make sure that being a caregiver or a caregiving aide is attractive to folks.”
Thursday’s breakfast brought together a wide range of groups, including the Washington Association of Area Agencies on Aging, AARP Washington and organizations representing workers and rights for people with disabilities.
Featured photo: Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, spoke to the Age Wave Coalition on Thursday. (Christina Clem/AARP Washington)