FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL & HEALTH SERVICES ANNOUNCES PLAN TO BALANCE THE STATE BUDGET BY DECIMATING LONG-TERM CARE SERVICES
SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders: “To cut funding for the frontlines of healthcare in the middle of a global pandemic is tantamount to neglect. The people of Washington are asking: Why are we slashing care for the most vulnerable while the wealthiest in our state pay next to nothing.”
SEATTLE, WA – Today, the Washington State Department of Social & Health Services (DSHS) announced their plan to balance the state budget by decimating long-term care services in our state. They’re electing to eliminate nursing home, home care, and other services for tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, cutting wages and benefits for already low-wage home care workers, and slashing funding for nursing homes that were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This proposal is outrageous. Caregivers put our health on the line because the people we care for needed us. To cut funding for essential work now, in the middle of a global pandemic, is not acceptable.
“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve been caring for my five clients 24-7, because if I wasn’t there I’m not sure who would help them out of bed and make sure they have enough to eat,” said caregiver Shazia Anwar. “DSHS’s proposed cuts will leave thousands of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities without essential healthcare while we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic.”
We live in a state where those who make the least pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than wealthy residents – but DSHS proposes to cut wages and benefits for in-home caregivers who make $16-18 per hour.
“I’ve been taking care of one client for over 5 years. When we were both diagnosed with COVID-19, even though I couldn’t be in his home with him, I didn’t stop taking care of him because his anxiety meant he needed me at this time more than ever,” said caregiver Desirae Hernandez.»We spent over 2 hours a day on the phone as I walked him through remembering to eat, talking to his substitute caregiver, and trying to mitigate his depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. I kept him out of the hospital, and I know I’m the reason he’s still alive.”
When this pandemic started, Governor Inslee called caregivers essential workers. Our work helped flatten the curve and kept Washington safe. At the same time caregivers were risking their lives, Washington’s richest saw their wealth continually increase.
“Caregivers – who are generally women, and often Black women, women of color and immigrants – care for clients who are often high risk for COVID-19. For an in-home caregiver, over the course of a week they go into multiple peoples’ homes, the grocery store and pharmacy to pick up necessary supplies for the people they care for. Nursing home workers cared for wards of COVID-19 residents without proper access to PPE and testing. Caregivers in our state showed up to work, while risking their lives,” said Sterling Harders, SEIU 775 President. “To cut funding for the frontlines of healthcare in the middle of a global pandemic is tantamount to neglect. The people of Washington are asking: why are we slashing services for the most vulnerable while the wealthiest in our state pay next to nothing.”
Washington needs revenue. We need a tax system that makes the wealthiest in our state pay their fair share. We need a new normal that addresses the unacceptable inequities– that have plagued our society.
Balancing the budget on the backs of essential workers in Washington is unacceptable. We are ready to fight back.
SEIU 775, the caregivers union, represents more than 45,000 long-term care workers providing quality home care, nursing home care, and residential services in Washington and Montana.