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Inflation Eroding WA Caregivers' Gains in Pandemic Hazard Pay

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Thursday, May 19, 2022   

At the start of the pandemic, at-home caregivers in Washington state saw their wages go up with a boost from hazard pay. Two years later, inflation is erasing the pay bump.

Wages actually have gone up for caregivers from $19 per hour in May 2020 to $19.26 today, but inflation means the purchasing power of their pay now is actually $17.46.

Gwen Goodfellow, an at-home caregiver, said the increase was welcome at first.

"Having the hazard pay was really nice. It made us feel more comfortable to do, like, grocery orders instead of going to the store and allow us to be a little bit more protective," Goodfellow acknowledged. "Then, as time went on, the cost of things went up, and it's not a bonus at this point."

Goodfellow's union, Service Employees International Union Local 775, was instrumental in negotiating hazard pay for caregivers. Hazard pay was offered to essential workers who were in vulnerable positions as COVID-19 spread.

Goodfellow looks after her mother and a friend, as well as taking care of her son, and pointed out caregivers are struggling.

"Good pay for caregivers is really important," Goodfellow asserted. "I mean, we help seniors, we help people with disabilities. I know my situation isn't unique. I hate to say it, but sometimes it feels like I kind of almost chose poverty so that I could care for my family."

Goodfellow added benefits beyond pay are important as well, such as affordable health care, retirement and paid time off which does not inhibit her ability to pay the bills.

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


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