“I’m a nurse’s assistant at a nursing home in Spokane. Despite serving our state’s elderly and sick on the front lines of this pandemic for two years now, nursing home workers haven’t received hazard pay.

We’ve worked long hours and are short-staffed. Many have quit. Burnt-out staff have been asked to come back to work a few days after a positive test if they were asymptomatic or feeling well enough, because there isn’t anyone to fill in for them. In 2020, we had a wave of COVID-19 cases, and both staff and residents got sick. Twenty-nine residents died before the end of the year, some of whom I’d cared for for over three years and considered family.

I am shocked that the proposed budget released by the state Senate does not include any funding for nursing home workers to receive up to a $4 per hour wage increase to help stabilize our workforce or funding to increase nursing home provider rates to keep up with rising costs.

Nursing homes were severely underfunded even before the pandemic. We are understaffed and overwhelmed, and without funding wage increases, we are condemned to struggle and burnout, and residents are condemned to lower-quality care because there aren’t enough people willing to work these jobs. We deserve compensation that would allow us to provide for ourselves and our families.

Long-term care workers are putting our lives on the line. Our legislators can and must do more.”

Cal Hilmo, Spokane

You can read the letter from SEIU 775 member Cal Hilmo in The Spokesman-Review here.