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Caregivers Oppose $1.1 Billion Cut to WA Long-Term Care Services

Vicki Bickford says she relies on her income as a caregiver to stay afloat. (SEIU 775)
Vicki Bickford says she relies on her income as a caregiver to stay afloat. (SEIU 775)
October 23, 2020

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Caregivers for frail elders and people living with disabilities in Washington are concerned about the potential effects of more than a billion dollars in cuts to the state's long-term care services.

To fill part of the shortfall caused by COVID-19, the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed cutting long-term care services by $1.1 billion for the 2021 through 2023 budget.

Vicki Bickford is an in-home caregiver with Service Employees International Union Local 775. She said her client already needs around-the-clock care, and could suffer under these cuts.

"He doesn't actually get authorized for the amount of care that he needs," said Bickford. "He shouldn't be left alone. He can no longer get up or sit down without help - and he can't, basically, do any functions that involve him getting out of bed without help."

Last week, Bickford testified at the Joint Legislative Executive Committee on Planning for Aging and Disability Issues, along with other nursing and in-home caregivers, in opposition to these cuts.

A recent analysis found the state budget shortfall is $4.2 billion through 2023 - half as much as a more dire analysis in June.

Bickford said she had COVID-19 in March and still feels the effects. She said she's worried about what losing her caregiving income could mean.

"I lose income and my health is going to suffer," said Bickford. "It's going to go bad - even worse than it is now."

Bickford said she's frustrated with the state's "upside-down" tax code, with low- and middle-income residents paying a much larger share of their income than their richer peers. She said she believes the state should tax the wealthiest Washingtonians rather than make drastic budget cuts.

"They need to fix the roads so that we can drive to work," said Bickford. "They need to fix health-care systems so that we can get care. Not take it away. "

On Saturday, nursing home and in-home care providers hold a rally in Tacoma at 2 p.m.

Disclosure: SEIU 775 contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA