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Asking WA Lawmakers to Care More – about Caregivers

January 28, 2008

Olympia, WA – A coalition of nursing home workers and social service advocates is rallying today at the Statehouse to ask Washington lawmakers for better pay and health insurance. They say nursing home residents will get better care and facilities will have less employee turnover if legislators improve employees' wages and benefits. They are suggesting a package of $15 million, about double what the Governor proposed in her budget.

Christine Jimenez, policy researcher for the caregivers' union (Service Employees' International Union Local 775) and a member of the "Washington United for Quality Nursing Home Care" coalition, says more money should go to nursing homes that take low-income, Medicaid patients. Those facilities could then afford to increase wages and offer employee benefits. Jimenez adds a federal match is available, which means the state's money could go twice as far.

"The $15 million in state funds, matched with $15-plus million in federal funds, is enough to cover health care in our highest Medicaid facilities for those workers who have wages under $15 per hour."

Nursing home employees in Washington say it's hard to care for others when they can't make ends meet for their own families. According to Jimenez, the typical Washington nursing home worker makes $10 an hour and receives no benefits.
And not all the care facilities are created equal, she notes. Especially in small towns, they need more help from the state.

"There are nursing homes out there that are very well funded, but they're not well funded by Medicaid. And then there are those who serve the poor; those in the rural communities. I think that's the reason they're not heard: They aren't in the cities or in the richest parts of our state that get the most attention."

The Senate Ways & Means Committee is scheduled to take up eldercare funding legislation, SB 6567 and SB 6222, later this week. The rally is at 10:00 AM today in a tent adjacent to the State Capitol building.

Information about the "Washington United for Quality Nursing Home Care" coalition is online at www.justicefornursinghomeworkers.com.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA