OLYMPIA, Wash. - Home-care workers say state lawmakers might not be so willing to cut the hours of personal care given to 45,000 Washingtonians who are older or have disabilities, if they knew how badly those services are needed. Today, caregivers will march and rally in Olympia, then meet with individual legislators.
Caregiver Val Anderson-Webb, who is traveling by bus from Spokane to be there, says her clients have both mental and physical limitations, but want to receive care at home. One is an amputee and stroke victim whose hours of service are slated for a 25 percent cut, says Anderson-Webb.
"There's not enough time with the hours that she has now to meet her daily needs. She's only 32 years old. I don't think she should be forced because of budget cuts into a nursing home - which isn't saving the state any money, it's costing them more."
She and other home-care workers are asking lawmakers to spend a day on the job with them. She says state Rep. Andy Billig (D-Dist. 3) of Spokane has already taken her up on it.
In December, some individual home-care clients and the caregivers' union brought a lawsuit challenging the cuts, and a federal judge could rule on it as early as this week. Adam Glickman, vice president of SEIU Healthcare Local 775NW, says the state continues to give tax breaks for private jet sales and corporate perks like country club memberships. He believes it's time to rethink those breaks.
"Maybe that had some reason at one point, but now that we're in this huge budget deficit, I think we need to ask the questions about whether those tax exemptions are valuable - and whether they're as valuable as ensuring that seniors and people with disabilities can get care in their own home."
Glickman points out that most home-care workers make $10 to $12 an hour, and cutting their clients' service hours also jeopardizes their own ability to support their families. He says home-care workers in Washington have had their wages frozen for five years.
The march and rally begin at noon at the State Capitol.