SEATTLE - November is National Family Caregiving Month. Many Washington
families depend on home care workers to help them with relatives who
are elderly or have disabilities. But those workers now face cuts in
their own health care benefits as part of the Department of Social and
Health Services (DSHS) supplemental budget request.
As a result of the state's budget crisis, home care workers' hours
already were cut by 4 percent this year, and services for thousands of
people were reduced. David Rolf, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 775
, predicts that if the request goes through, some caregivers will not be able to afford to stay in the industry.
"It was only a few years ago that these workers didn't have any health
care, didn't have any vision, dental, vacation - or even workers'
compensation, if they got injured on the job. This proposal by DSHS
really threatens to be a big step backward."
The DSHS request is on the governor's desk for her to consider as she
prepares a budget proposal to deliver to the legislature next month.
The request also includes raising license fees for nursing homes and
adult family homes, and ending in-home care services for another 1,400
Rolf, whose union represents home care workers, says the proposed cuts
will make it harder to attract and retain workers in a field that is
"Home care workers bathe, feed, dress, lift, provide bowel and bladder
care, transportation to and from the doctor. They are folks who do,
literally, backbreaking work to provide dignity and sustenance to the
most frail and disabled folks in our state - and they do it starting at
$10 an hour."
The budget details are online at www.dshs.wa.gov/budget
in the "2010 Supplemental Budget Agency Request."