COVID-19: Our Union’s Response and Resources

When you’re hearing so much about COVID-19, it can be overwhelming and hard to know what to believe. Below are trusted resources that we will be updating continuously with the latest information about the outbreak, as well as best practices for keeping yourself, your family, and your client healthy.


Frequently Asked Questions

Washington’s “Stay home, Stay Safe” Order:
Question: With the recommendation of the “Stay home, stay safe” policy and social distancing, what should caregivers do? Should we be going to work?

Answer: We have confirmed with the State that home care workers are considered “essential providers” and are allowed to continue to work and provide care for their vulnerable clients. You can find precautions that caregivers should take on below, as well as additional guidance from DSHS about tasks that caregivers can and will be encouraged to do remotely, when possible – such as over the phone – to limit how much you have to leave home and reduce contact while continuing to support your client. If you are at greater risk yourself – such as over the age of 60 with an existing health condition – and you feel it is unsafe for you to go to work, you should call your agency supervisor or case worker and you could potentially qualify for unemployment.

Essential Workforce Permission for Caregiver Letter: We have confirmed with the Governor’s office that it is not necessary for caregivers to carry a letter stating that they are essential workers, but we are happy to provide one, as many of you have been asking for one, and we know many of your employers are providing similar letters. You can get the letter here.

Domestic abuse has been on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trained experts are available 24/7 to talk confidentially with anyone who is experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline today: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Or visit Washington State Coalition against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) to find resources available to caregivers throughout the state of Washington.

 

Health Insurance:
Question: I lost hours due to the coronavirus and I’m worried that I’m going to lose my health insurance – what can I do?

Answer: We have taken action to ensure home care workers who have Union health insurance won’t lose their coverage if their hours go down as a result of COVID-19. Caregivers will need to notify the Health Benefits Trust that their hours dropped below 80 hours per month as a result of COVID-19, and they will be granted a coverage extension. Keep an eye on your email for details from our Health Benefits Trust on how to report that you’ve lost hours and need this coverage extension.

In response to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Health Care Authority (HCA) is taking steps to ensure that individuals maintain continuity of their Classic Apple Health (Medicaid) coverage. You can find details on the new changes for eligibility here.

 

Lost Hours:
Question: I lost hours or lost a client due to the coronavirus – what can I do?

Answer: Depending on your situation, you can apply for Unemployment Insurance, Worker’s Comp/L&I, Paid Family Leave Act, or use PTO. You can learn more by clicking below – including taking a quiz that can help point you in the direction of the best resource for you. If you are interested in getting hours with a new client, you can also sign up at CarinaCare.com.

 

Client Safety:
Question: What do I do if I or my client gets coronavirus or is exposed to coronavirus?

Answer: This is a big concern of many caregivers. We encourage you to call your/your client’s primary care physician, and contact your client’s case manager if you are an IP or your supervisor if you are an agency provider. The CDC has a resource guide for living with someone or sharing close quarters with someone with coronavirus. Additionally, the Washington State Department of Health has established a call center to address questions from the public – their number is 1-800-525-0127.

Home Care Guidance for Tele-Health from DSHS: View this document for a list of tasks that can now be done by phone or remotely, and which tasks can only be provided in person. If you work for a private home care agency consult with your agency supervisor before doing tasks by phone or remotely.

 

PPE:
Question: How can caregivers get access to PPE?

Answer: April 24 Update: In response to our demands, the State will now have cloth masks to distribute out to every single Individual Provider via mail in May that they have addresses for. If you have a client with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, you’ll be able to access an N95 mask and other essential PPE. In the meantime, our SEIU 775 Benefits Group has instructions for how you can make masks at home.

There is a national shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment like masks) and the Federal Government has fallen down on getting more produced and out to caregivers who need it. We are also working with local public health agencies to develop guidance for caregivers on safe and affordable alternatives that can help protect caregivers while we push for more official PPE to be produced.

Unless you or your client has a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis, the CDC recommends following everyday preventive actions, such as washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home when you are sick.

If you are caring for someone who is sick with COVID-19, please read the COVID-19 Guidance for In-Home Caregivers with Limited Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Free gloves for caregivers are available to some IPs through their clients’ health benefit. Please visit the SEIU 775 Benefits Group webpage for instructions.

After advocating hard with the Governor’s office and DSHS, we successfully pushed to have home care workers included in the official state “priority lists” for access to PPE.

DSHS has new guidelines for in-home caregivers and PPE: Caregivers who provide care for someone who is “Confirmed” (tested positive for COVID-19) or “Suspected” (pending test results OR medical provider verified the symptoms are consistent with COVID-19, but will not test) can request PPE through your Area Agency on Aging (AAA).

This is a step forward – and some caregivers will be able to get PPE – but it’s not enough.

 

Working People:
Question: With so many people losing hours and jobs, is there anything we can do to help?

Answer: We know that many people that work at closed businesses are out of work. We are joining with SEIU nationally and other unions to demand economic stimulus focused on working people, not big corporations. Among other things, we are calling for meaningful income replacement checks for all, regardless of citizenship or employment status. You can find out more at protectallworkers.org.

 

Childcare:
Question: I need to take care of my client, but schools are closed so I have kids at home. What can we do about childcare?

Answer: The State of Washington has been working on a plan to provide free emergency childcare to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the crisis. We have been in touch with the Governor’s office and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to make very clear that home care and nursing home workers must be included in any plans for emergency childcare, and the good news is they agree with us! The bad news is the plans are rolling out too slowly in some school districts for those of you trying to care for your kids and your clients. We are pushing to make sure caregivers have access to childcare if they need it, and will be sending out information as we get it. In the meantime, please tell us if you need childcare and aren’t able to access it.

King County Emergency Child Care: Essential workers who live or work in King County AND need childcare can help you access free emergency child care. Learn more here.

 

Resources:

Latest SEIU 775 Benefits Group Facebook Live: The SEIU 775 Benefits Group has done a couple of Facebook Live events about the virus with Dr. Freddy Chen and Dr. Leslie Phillips. They cover the latest information on COVID-19, and how to best ensure you and your clients remain safe and healthy.

Gloves: IPs serving Medicaid and state-only-funded clients have access to gloves as part of each client’s health benefits, thanks to our Union contract. To learn how to get them, click here.

Delivery of in-home personal care and Adult Day Health services during the COVID-19 outbreak: Please read recommendations by DSHS regarding delivery of in-home personal care services.

Overtime limits to protect parent providers and live-in caregivers: While they are not eliminating the workweek limits across the board, the state has indicated that they are likely to approve temporarily waiving the overtime workweek limits on a case-by-case basis, especially where there is a concern about bringing additional caregivers into a shared living situation in a way that would increase risk of transmitting COVID-19. You can send a letter to your caseworker requesting an Exception to Client Specific Work Week Limit (CSWWL) to be able to exceed your work week limit and provide all of your client’s authorized hours. We have a template you can use here.

If you experience symptoms of, or believe you were exposed to COVID-19, call these hotlines:

  • Washington State Department of Health Coronavirus hotline: 1-800-525-0127 between 6 am and 10 pm
  • King County Coronavirus hotline: 206-477-3977 between 8 am and 7 pm

Find your local Health Department online here  – Washington State Department of Health

Montana Information: Information and resources for Montanans is available here.


SEIU 775 and SEIU 775 Benefits Group Resources

Our Union’s actions to respond to the COVID-19 crisis: Learn about the what our Union has been doing to support caregivers though this crisis.

SEIU 775 in the News: Read about what caregivers are doing and how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting us.

Share your story: Tell us how COVID-19 is impacting you.

Access to COVID-19 Testing and Health Benefits: Learn more information from SEIU 775 Benefits Group.

HCA Certification Exam Rescheduling: Learn more information from SEIU 775 Benefits Group.

Training Information and Updates for Caregivers: Learn more information from SEIU 775 Benefits Group.

 


Lost Hours

Apply for Unemployment Insurance, Workers’ Comp/L&I, Paid Family Leave Act, or use PTO:


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Resources

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Official overview and information from the CDC.

Guidance for Long-Term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes: Additional information for facilities and nursing homes.

Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations: Environmental cleaning and disinfection recommendations.

Preventing COVID-19 from Spreading: Information on preventing the spread of coronavirus in homes and residential communities.


Fact Sheets (Multilingual)

Public Health COVID-19 Fact Sheet – Seattle and King County

Facts about Novel Coronavirus and How to Prevent COVID-19 – Seattle Times

2019 Novel Coronavirus: A Fact Sheet for Healthcare Workers – SEIU

Multilingual Coronavirus Fact Sheet – Washington State Department of Health

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