WA Caregivers Look to Lawmakers for Help with Worker Shortage

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There is a shortage of in-home caregivers in Washington state, but a union representing workers hopes state lawmakers will be able to make changes this session.

Service Employees International Union Local 775, which represents individual in-home caregivers in the state, is asking lawmakers to fully fund the home care rate for workers who have clients on Medicaid, which would bring their starting wages to more than $21 per hour.

Gwen Goodfellow, an individual in-home care provider and member of SEIU 775, said the change would benefit workers and their children.

“Fully funding that rate would make the wages competitive, and it would also allow for dependent care coverage, which we don’t have right now,” Goodfellow pointed out.

Dependent health care coverage could help fill coverage gaps for an estimated 1,500 uninsured dependents of home-care workers, according to SEIU 775. Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget included full funding of the home care rate.

Across the country, 94% of Area Agencies on Aging have seen an increase in the number of older adults requesting services but have struggled to find the workforce to cover the demand, according to USAging.

Goodfellow contended an increase in wages and benefits could alleviate the issue of a lack of workers.

“It not only will help current caregivers, it will bring new caregivers into the profession,” Goodfellow explained. “And in turn, it will help those clients who are waiting for help by addressing our caregiver shortage.”

The updated health care rate was determined by a state rate-setting board last year. It will ultimately be part of the state budget. The legislative session begins today.

Featured photo: The demand for in-home caregivers is growing as the population rapidly ages. (pikselstock/Adobe Stock)

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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