LAKEWOOD — “Look at that,” said Dora Poqui, nodding toward her television as it flashed a preview of the evening news. “Every time I see the news. $5.27 for gasoline. I know our pockets are going to be hurting this week.”

In fact, Poqui’s pockets hurt most weeks lately. Gone are the days when she and her husband thought they might save to buy a home. The pandemic has landed hard on them, and now they share an apartment in Lakewood with her mother, who was dozing in a reclining chair, and her granddaughter, who was holed up in one of the two bedrooms down the hall. Instead of a house, Poqui now saves for meat and cereal, for a family member’s funeral in Mexico and, as an in-home caregiver, for the cost of driving a car.

To read the full story on our member Dora Poqui, please visit The Seattle Times.

«Since 1997, I’ve worked as an unpaid caregiver for my family members, and I understand the importance of caregiving on a very personal level.

25 years later, you would think our state’s caregiving industry would be in a better position, but it’s actually harder to find a caregiver since COVID-19. Why? Because many who have put their hearts and souls into this profession have come to the conclusion that the pay isn’t worth the risk, and there is no respect for a job that is at the very foundation of caring for Alaska’s most vulnerable populations. Even the most passionate caregivers can’t get around the fact that doing this work means not being able to financially support our own families.

Now is a critical time for the Senate to use federal infrastructure dollars to invest in home care, so we can be sure that caregivers get paid fairly and are trained properly. I don’t think I’d be wrong in saying that caregiving touches the majority of Alaskans. Why wouldn’t it be prudent to elevate this monumental issue to be included in our federal and state investment?

We need you to stand with us to support seniors, people with disabilities, and children, and to help create good, respectable jobs that pay a living wage and keep Alaskans home in their own communities.»

Read more from Katherine Bacon, a caregiver in Palmer, Alaska, in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

Because of caregivers coming together and raising our voices through thousands of actions – sending emails, making calls, testifying, talking to lawmakers at a Purple Presence, and more – most legislators chose to stand by caregivers this legislative session, and we have so much to celebrate!

Here’s everything we fought for – and won – during the 2022 legislative session!

Time for $20

Home care: We won full funding for the updated IP contract with agency parity and continuing enhanced rates (hazard pay)!

This means home care workers will continue to receive higher wages through a combination of hazard pay and our bargained contract raises through the rest of our 2021-2023 contract, which expires in June 2023.

While we didn’t get everyone all the way to $20, we made huge progress. We secured funding to continue IPs starting wage of $19.26 (including hazard pay) and higher wages along each wage scale step. Workers at the top of the wage scale are now making more than $21.50 (not counting differentials). We still need to negotiate with the State but expect to be able to continue these wages through June 2023. We will continue to update caregivers as we negotiate an official updated pay rate for April 1 – June 30, and then for July 1, 2022, through June 2023.

We will then be working this year on bargaining our next IP contract, which will go into effect starting July 2023. In bargaining, we hope to win a starting wage of more than $20/hour and permanently increased wages for all caregivers to ensure that when hazard pay expires, no one gets a pay cut.

For APs, this means we’ll head back into impact bargaining with all our employers to negotiate the same hazard pay wins.

We’ll have more to share in the coming weeks, and you can learn more in the meantime here:

Nursing homes: We won full funding for nursing home workers to see up to $4/hour raise, with rate increases starting July 1, 2022!

We fought this legislative session to win $20 an hour for all long-term care workers, because we have been working on the frontlines of this pandemic, and we know that nursing homes were underfunded even before COVID.

Hundreds of nursing home workers around the state called and lobbied their representatives to tell them nursing home wages need to be funded, and they heard us. The funding for wage increases for nursing home workers will arrive this summer, which is when our bargaining teams will be negotiating new raises and wage scales.

Essential work deserves a living wage, and the funding for these wage increases will go a long way to solve our staffing crisis, bring workers back to our facilities, and allow us to provide for ourselves and our families.

WA Cares

WA Cares is critical for addressing our state’s looming age wave and the strain it will put on the State’s long-term care system. This budget funds outreach about improvements the legislature made to WA Cares, which includes increasing the number of people eligible for home care funds by over one million people!

Personal Needs Allowance

We passed SB 5745 and won funding to increase the in-home client personal needs allowance (PNA) from 100 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent of the federal benefit rate. This means our clients will have to pay less in co-pays and keep more money to use on their personal needs, including housing costs, utilities, food, and personal items. Almost 85% of the home care clients who currently have co-pays will no longer have to pay them, and the rest will see much reduced co-pays.

We also won:

  • Funding for community-based organizations to educate and provide resources to help people apply for the Working Families Tax Credit, a new benefit starting in 2023 that provides eligible individuals up to an additional $1,200 on their tax return.
  • Health care access regardless of immigration status: Funding to expand Apple Health for Washington residents regardless of immigration status, beginning in January 2024.
  • Permanent supportive housing to help prevent homelessness: Apple Health and Homes Program (Program) that will provide a permanent supportive housing benefit and a community support services benefit to persons who below a certain income, experience medical risk factors and face barriers to finding stable housing.
  • Affordable prescription drugs: A new prescription price transparency board was created, and a new law requires health plans, including health plans offered to public employees and their dependents, to cap the price for a 30-day supply of insulin at $35.
  • Increased affordable housing: Increased funding and several new laws expand the ability to allow local governments to build affordable housing across Washington.
  • Improvements to TANF: For families with children under three, the department will be able to provide an additional benefit to be used on diapers, and DSHS is able to provide transitional food assistance for five months to a household that ceases to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and is not in full family sanction status.

In a year when we couldn’t go to the Capitol or talk to our legislators in person, we still made sure they could hear us. We’re stronger together. Thank you for taking action!

«I’ve been a home care worker for 17 years and care for my mother. I am grateful that the proposed budget released by the state Senate includes funding for an extension of hazard pay for home care workers, but I’m alarmed that it has none to raise wages for nursing home workers.

Despite caring for our most vulnerable population, most nursing home workers haven’t seen any increased wages during the pandemic. Many are leaving their jobs because the pay is so low and the risk is so high. Without funding wage increases, our lawmakers are condemning workers to struggle and burnout and condemning residents to lower-quality care because there aren’t enough people willing to work these jobs.

I worked in a nursing home for one week, because in that week there was a COVID outbreak. Five residents were sick in the first three days, and it was still going around. I knew I had to leave because I couldn’t risk bringing that home to my mom. Most people I know working in nursing homes have gotten COVID from the job at least once — more often, several times. They are putting themselves and their families at risk every single day they go to work. Knowing that, how can we not include them?

I hope the state Legislature does the right thing and includes a rate increase to raise wages of front-line nursing home workers up to $4 an hour in the final budget. Long-term care workers deserve higher wages.»

Rhonda Parker, Bucoda

You can read the letter from SEIU 775 member Rhonda Parker in The Olympian here.

«I have worked in healthcare for almost 25 years: as a home care worker for the last 11 and as a CNA for 11 years before that. I take pride and joy in caring for others.

I am grateful that the proposed budget released by the state Senate includes funding for an extension of hazard pay for home care workers, but I’m alarmed that the House proposal to raise wages for nursing home workers isn’t included.

All long-term care workers, home care and nursing home workers alike, are putting our lives on the line caring for our most vulnerable population and deserve pay commensurate with our work. Most nursing home workers haven’t seen increased wages during the pandemic.

We are essential workers, but our wages and benefits do not reflect that. Inflation, COVID, a shortage of supplies, sickness, and exhaustion have contributed to already strained staffing. We are burned out and need support. I don’t blame folks for leaving caregiving when they can make more money without the health risks in other jobs.

It’s impossible to give everyone the care they need when you are understaffed. Unless we prioritize long-term care now, the future will only get bleaker as more Washingtonians age. The turnover rate for healthcare workers is bleak. Wage increases would change that.

I hope the legislature does the right thing and raises wages of frontline nursing home workers up to $4 an hour.»

Nando Haddad, Silverdale

You can read the letter from SEIU 775 member Nando Haddad in the Bainbridge Island review here.

Because of the work our Union, SEIU 775, did to help pass the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services now has the funding to offer temporary assistance for 12 months of childcare for eligible healthcare workers – including long-term care workers.

Applications are now open. Funding is limited and applications are processed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Montana Childcare Assistance: DPHHS Checklist for Eligibility

  • You and your family live in Montana 
  • Child requiring childcare is under 12 twelve years old 
  • Child requiring childcare is U.S. citizens or a qualified alien (proof of immigration status) 
  • Parents with children under 18 are compliant with child support if there is an absent parent. 
  • You provide direct care services to individuals in Montana in one or more of the following categories:  
    • Long-term care settings: nursing homes, in-home care, or other home and community-based services 
    • Healthcare 
    • Behavioral services 
    • Disabilities services 
  • Your family works at least one of the following number of hours per month:  
    • 2 parent households: 120 hours (The work hours may be divided between the two parents. One parent may meet the work requirement while the other parent attends school full time) 
    • Single parent: 60 hours  
    • Single parent studying full-time: 40 hours.  
  • You’ll receive priority funding if your household/family’s income1 is at or below the Federal Poverty Line (FPL).  If you think you’re above the income limit, you can still apply and there’s still a chance it might get approved.  
Number of persons in Family/Household250% Federal Poverty Line, Annual Income
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,720 for each additional person.

Montana Childcare Assistance: Frequently Asked Questions 

What are the benefits of the program?  

The program will provide assistance for 12 months to pay a childcare provider for eligible healthcare workers. A childcare provider will be paid the full authorized amount, regardless of attendance. This ensures a child will have a childcare slot with the provider. 

Will I have to pay anything? 

Yes, you will pay up to a monthly co-payment of up to $100 to your childcare provider. 

What is a qualified childcare provider?  

A qualified childcare provider is one that is licensed/registered by the State of Montana. You can search for certified and licenses childcare providers in this database OR the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies in which you submit your application might be able to help you find one. 

How can I submit the application and get assistance filling it out?  

You can submit your application through the different Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and Regions. You can go to the DPHHS website OR find your region and contact information below. Many of these agencies have translation services, so if English is not your first language, ask whether they have an interpreter available.  

RegionServing countiesNamePhone numbersAddress
Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Sanders The Nurturing Center 406 – 756 – 1414 800 – 204 – 0644  322 2nd Ave West, Suite C 
Kalispell, MT  59901-4428 
Mineral, Missoula, Ravalli Child Care Resources   406 – 728 – 6446 800 – 728 – 6446  Child Care Resources 
500 N. Higgins, Suite 202 
PO Box 7038 
Missoula, MT  59807-7038 
Beaverhead, Deer Lodge, Granite, Madison, Powell, Silver Bow Butte 4 C’s  406 – 723 – 4019 800 – 794 – 4061  Butte 4 C’s — Butte 
101 N. Main Street 
Butte, MT 59701 
Broadwater, Gallatin, Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, Meagher, Park Child Care Connections  
406 – 587 – 7786 800 – 962 – 0418  1143 Stoneridge Drive, Suite 1 
Bozeman, Montana 59718 
Cascade, Chouteau, Fergus, Glacier, Judith Basin, Petroleum, Pondera, Teton, Toole Family Connections 406 – 761 – 6010 800 – 696 – 4503  202 2nd Ave S, Suite 201 
Great Falls, MT  59405 
Blaine, Daniels, Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Hill, Liberty, Phillips, Prairie, Richland, Roosevelt, Sheridan, Valley, Wibaux Family Connections  406 – 265 – 6743 800 – 640 – 6743  2229 5th Avenue 
Havre, MT 59501 
 Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Fallon, Golden Valley, Musselshell, Powder River, Rosebud, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Treasure, Wheatland, Yellowstone HRDC District 7  406 – 247 – 4732 800 – 443 – 1411  7 North 31st Street 
PO Box 2016 
Billings, MT  59103-2016 

«I’m a nurse’s assistant at a nursing home in Renton. Our workforce has cared for our state’s elderly and sick on the front lines of this pandemic for two years now.

But because the nursing-home sector hasn’t had enough funding to pay us competitive wages, many have quit and short staffing is widespread. In my facility, daytime workers should have 10 individuals to take care of, but now regularly have 14 to 16. It’s not possible to truly care for residents when you have to work at a run.

I’m shocked that our state Senate’s proposed budget doesn’t include funding for nursing homes to increase workers’ wages. The proposed House budget includes a measure to give up to a $4-per-hour wage increase to bring workers back to our facilities. This would go a long way to solve our staffing crisis, but unfortunately the Senate has not yet joined the effort.

Nursing homes were underfunded, even before the pandemic. We are understaffed and overwhelmed, and without funding wage increases, residents are condemned to lower-quality care because enough people aren’t willing to work these jobs.

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

Linda Long, Kent

You can read the letter from SEIU 775 member Linda Long in The Seattle Times here.

«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.