Governor Bullock Announces Emergency Rules to Streamline Unemployment Benefits for Workers Impacted by COVID-19:

  • The rules allow a claimant directed by their employer to leave work or not report to work due to COVID-19 to qualify as being temporarily laid off by the employer and eligible for benefits. Workers who must quarantine or who need to take care of a family member due to COVID-19 are also considered temporarily laid off and eligible for benefits.
  • Allows DLI to waive the one week waiting period before typically receiving benefits to ensure Montanans don’t experience a long gap without a paycheck.
  • Montana employers will receive help through these rules. Individual claims will not be chargeable to a specific employer’s account. The rules also include a provision that could extend the time employers have to file wage reports and pay unemployment insurance contributions if the delay is related to COVID-19.

MT-hazard-payHazard Pay: Montana caregivers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 epidemic. We’re demanding that the federal stimulus money goes towards Hazard Pay for home care, DD and nursing home workers. Sign our Hazard Pay petition today! 

Unemployment: COVID-19 Resource Guide for Montana Employers and Employees from the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (L&I)

PPE: SEIU is working on a federal petition to try and get home care and nursing home workers access to Personal Protective Equipment AND to demand the federal government release a stockpile that they have. You can sign the petition here.

Information from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services on COVID-19: Resources and contact information for your local health or tribal health departments.

As we all adapt to manage the COVID-19 outbreak, it can be hard to keep up with the news and what you should do to keep yourself, your client, and your community protected. I want to share the latest news with you and the resources our union, SEIU 775, has put in place for our caregivers and community to help you navigate these changes.

Today at 5:30 p.m., Governor Jay Inslee announced a Stay Home order in Washington state to help contain the outbreak of COVID-19 starting immediately for a minimum of two weeks. You can read the full announcement here or watch it on TVW. Here’s what you need to know.

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 our website at seiu775.org/covid19, and we expect additional guidance over the next few days 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.

We will continue to update our members with new information as it becomes available. It was great to talk to so many of you this afternoon on our teletown hall – nearly 4,000 caregivers joined, but if you missed it and have questions, please visit our website at seiu775.org/covid19, which we’re updating continuously.

If you have any questions, please reach out to our Member Resource Center Monday – Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. at 1-866-371-3200 or at mrc@seiu775.org.

We will continue to fight to make sure our caregivers and communities are taken care of during this time.

Sincerely,
Sterling Harders
SEIU 775 President

An interview with Shelly Hughes and Susie Young

Some of the first US cases of coronavirus came from Washington nursing homes. We spoke to a nursing home worker and in-home care worker in the state about what it’s like providing care in the midst of a pandemic, and the brutal low-wage working conditions, worker shortages, and lack of decent health care that can only worsen the crisis.As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the inability of our privatized and fragmented health care system to respond has been laid terrifyingly bare. While nearly every part of the country is now affected, Americans first started hearing about outbreaks in Washington State nursing homes.

Much like other private health care providers, nursing homes and long–term care generally have been both underfunded by the public and cruelly exploited for profit by corporations for years. This treatment of some of the most vulnerable people in society normally flies under the radar, but the explosion of COVID-19 drew attention to how we care for the elderly in the United States.

Last week, as most of us were only starting to grasp the scale of the pandemic, Andrej Markovcic spoke with Shelly Hughes, a nursing home worker in Bellingham, WA, and Susie Young, an in-home care agency worker in Spokane, WA. Both are members of SEIU Local 775. We discussed the state of long–term care and what made it not only possible but predictable an outbreak like this could happen in nursing homes.

Read more at Jacobin

With families on the outside, it’s certified nursing assistants like Shelly Hughes who must reassure nursing home residents in person.

“One of the more difficult things to deal with is how afraid our residents are,” she said. “A lot of people just sit and watch the news all day, and you know, they’re very concerned.”

She said some family members typically visit daily and help feed their relatives at meal times, so the staff lacks that support now as well.

Hughes works at a skilled nursing facility in Bellingham. She said gowns and masks are now kept locked up, and they have restrictions on working at more than one facility – they must have a two-day separation between different workplaces.

Or they can “choose” one facility and seek more shifts there.

Hughes said her workplace has not had any coronavirus cases yet, and staff members are trained in infection control, but of course they’re worried too.

“None of us want to get sick and take it home to our families, and none of us want to get sick and bring it into our facility,” she said.

Hughes says conditions in her field were dire before the outbreak, but now they’re in the public eye.

“Direct caregivers and just a lot of people in nursing homes aren’t making a lot of money, they don’t have affordable healthcare, they work multiple jobs. It’s hard to miss days if you don’t have sick time. And it’s created this situation that we’re finding ourselves in.”

She calls the cluster of deaths at the LifeCare nursing home in Kirkland “heartbreaking,” and said she hopes some future good can come of the scrutiny they’re receiving.

Read more at KUOW.

Throughout the 2020 Washington State Legislative Session, thousands of SEIU 775 caregivers from across the state called, emailed, and traveled to Olympia to meet with their legislators to let them know what we’re fighting for and why it’s important – and it worked!

We have a lot to celebrate. We’re ending the legislative session with BIG WINS for caregivers, which were only possible because of the work and leadership of our members!

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Our 2020 priorities:

  • Landmark legislation that addresses the harassment, abuse, and discrimination of caregivers passed out of the legislature: Everyone deserves to feel safe while giving and receiving care. Senate Bill 6205, an important part of our HADit campaign, is headed to the Governor’s office to be signed into law! The bill makes the care environment safer for both caregivers and the people we care for by creating safety, prevention, and reporting standards.
  • A 5-cent increase to the in-home care agency administrative rate passed out of the legislature: This will help stabilize funding for agencies and help ensure access to home care for Washingtonians who need it!
  • Improved funding for home care agencies passed out of the legislature: House Bill 2380 clarifies the Parity law, so agency caregivers are paid equivalent wages and benefits for doing the same work that State-paid Individual Providers do!
  • Nursing home funding: We won more than $50 million total in funding for nursing homes. As many of you know, we’ve been working on increasing this funding for years, and it feels great to say we’ve made progress.
  • Insulin: House Bill 2662 will reduce the total cost of insulin, and Senate Bill 6087 will create cost-sharing requirements for the coverage of insulin products!

More legislative wins:

Adult day health: A rate increase of 6 percent was funded in the budget.

Healthcare affordability: Senate Bill 6088 will establish a prescription drug affordability board (SB 6088), and House Bill 2457 will establish a health care cost transparency board.

Housing: The legislature also passed bills that give authority to city and county councils to increase local sales, and use taxes by one tenth of one percent to dedicate to affordable housing (HB 1590), allow apartment move-in fees to be paid in installments (HB 1694), and create new residential tenant protections (SB 6378).

Equity, racial justice, and immigrant justice:

  • HB 1783 establishes a state racial equity office within the Governor’s office.
  • HB 2602 establishes hair styles as a protected civil right, especially in workplaces.
  • HB 2277 bans the use of solitary confinement in our juvenile justice system.
  • The Courts Open to All Act (HB 2567) prohibits federal immigration agents from communicating with and arresting people at and around county courthouses.
  • HB 2576 authorizes the Department of Health to study the effects of private detention in our state agencies.
  • HB 2632 designates the false reporting of crimes or emergencies as a felony offense to combat the use of “swatting” to intimidate members of the community.
  • HB 2793 automatically vacates criminal records for eligible people.
  • SB 6442 prohibits the Department of Corrections from using private contractors for incarceration unless it is a Governor-declared emergency.
  • HB 2231 reforms our current bail system to create more racial, economic, and legal equity by allowing judges the right to determine consequences for missed court hearings, rather than prosecutors.

This wouldn’t have been possible without caregivers like you reaching out to legislators and telling your story. Together, we are stronger.

The COVID-19 crisis is shining a spotlight on problems that have long existed in nursing homes — underfunding has real-life consequences.

Nursing-home workers are always on the front lines of caring for the most vulnerable. Yet due to chronic underfunding of nursing homes at the state and federal level, workers — certified nursing assistants, dietary aides, laundry workers — are stretched to capacity. COVID-19 didn’t create the crisis in nursing homes — it’s shown the reality.

There’s understaffing — I’ve talked to workers who feel that there is extra pressure for them to come in because there is literally no one else to fill in for them. Workers can be forced to work double shifts without notice. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion makes it hard to keep up with proper infection-control procedures — made even worse when you have a novel virus.

Being understaffed leads to unsafe client ratios. Workers have to care for too many residents at once, so corners get cut and full precautions aren’t taken. The Life Care facility in Kirkland that has reported many COVID-19 cases had reported staffing levels in the third quarter of 2019 at 1.93 certified nursing assistant (CNA) hours per resident day, well below the state average (2.40 CNA hours per resident day in the same quarter) and below federal best practices, according to payroll data Life Care and all nursing homes are required to submit to the federal government.

And many, many nursing-home workers don’t have access to affordable health care — even when they have a union. Being unable to get health care, while providing health care, is a strange reality.

Nursing-home workers are often loathe to call in sick out of fear of putting their co-workers and residents under even more stress, because there are few workers able to take their place. Recently, I talked to a worker who shared a story about how her already short-staffed nursing home is experiencing a flu outbreak. The nursing-home employer wants any sick worker to stay away until they qualify for the COVID-19 test. So being sick with the flu can mean you’re out of work until those tests become available.

This is a crisis we’ve all had a hand in creating. Most residents in nursing homes are on Medicaid, and the state’s Medicaid rates aren’t keeping up with costs. Nursing homes in Washington are more likely to operate at a loss than any other state in the country. So, the industry can’t recruit and retain the highly trained workforce it needs because a worker gets better pay and benefits from almost anywhere.

Workers are being pushed and stretched to take on more with less. How can we be expected to deliver the best care possible in an emergency state when under normal circumstances our health-care infrastructure is overextended?

Nursing home workers will tell you time and time again, that they do their work because they love the people they care for. They want to provide the best care possible, and they’re trying their best with a woefully unprepared and broken system.

We have to prioritize the needs of our aging population and the needs of the people who care for them, not just in moments of crisis, but every day and every year. That means safe staffing. That means affordable health care. That means living wages. And that means a union. Nursing-home workers tirelessly provide our most vulnerable populations with dignified care. It’s time we give them the dignity they work so hard to provide to others.Sterling Harders is president of SEIU 775, supporting the more than 45,000 long-term care workers providing in-home care, nursing home care and adult day health services throughout Washington and Montana.

The US Census is underway! You may have already received something in the mail detailing how to participate. If not, keep an eye on your mailbox. The Census takes place every 10 years, and is an essential tool for keeping power and resources in the hands of the people, so it’s important to make sure all of us are counted.

Why should you participate in the Census?

  • Census numbers are used to determine funding for vital programs like Medicaid, SNAP, affordable housing, and highway maintenance projects.
  • Census numbers are also used to decide how congressional districts are drawn. It’s common for several states to lose and gain House seats after a Census.
  • Washington is one of 21 states that use census data to apportion our state legislative districts, so if your area has low participation you could end up underrepresented in Olympia. Tell your neighbors!
  • Black, Hispanic, and Native American people are historically under-counted in the Census, as well as children and renters. This has led to these communities, which skew lower income, losing resources and representation to non-Hispanic whites and homeowners.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 16 million people were not counted or possibly incorrectly counted in the 2010 Census – generally people who experience multiple forms of oppressions.
  • We need to let our representatives know where we are, who we are, and how we live. These numbers give them a clearer idea of what their constituents need.
  • There are no immigration questions on the 2020 Census, despite efforts to include such questions by the Trump Administration.
  • You should include anyone who is staying in your home whether or not they are on the lease. Your landlord will not see your answers.
  • In fact, all of your answers to Census questions are confidential.

When and where can I fill out my census form?

  • Starting March 12th, once you have received official census mailings with your household’s User ID Number you’ll be able to complete your census forms at https://my2020census.gov/
  • You may also fill out the forms on paper and mail them in, or by phone.

Learn more about the Census HERE, or below:

Remember, it’s through our numbers that we build power as a Union. Every single one of us must be counted!