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Essential During Pandemic, WA Home Caregivers Push for More Hazard Pay

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Home caregivers want Washington state to raise their hazard pay to rates comparable with other essential workers. (toa555/Adobe Stock)
Home caregivers want Washington state to raise their hazard pay to rates comparable with other essential workers. (toa555/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
April 16, 2021

SEATTLE - Home caregivers in Washington are urging the state to extend - and raise - hazard pay for their essential workforce.

Caregivers have received an additional $2.50 per hour since last May because of increased federal funds that have gone to enhanced Medicaid provider rates.

Tynesha Wilson is a home health-care aide with spina bifida. Wilson doesn't have a car and was using public transportation to get to her clients before the pandemic.

She said she's using her hazard pay for Lyft rides to decrease the risk of transmitting the virus to her clients.

"Transporting myself back and forth every day with just one means of another person transporting me versus being on a bus with, like, hundreds of other people every single day," said Wilson.

Some of the increased federal funds were used to buy Personal Protective Equipment as well.

With more federal money coming from the American Rescue Plan Act passed last month, caregivers want Washington lawmakers to extend hazard pay and increase to at least $4, which is comparable to other essential workers.

Adam Glickman is secretary- treasurer for Service Employees International Union 775, which represents home caregivers in Washington. He said it's a low-wage workforce and hazard pay will help retain and recruit workers at a crucial time.

"These workers are continuing to make a choice to risk their own health and their families' health to go out and help seniors and people with disabilities be safe and healthy in their own homes," said Glickman.

Wilson said caregivers brought to people's attention how essential they've been during the pandemic.

"It wasn't just the crisis," said Wilson. "It was the crisis and us also pushing, saying we need to be able to get to our clients. We need to be able to feed our families. We need the money, and the money's there so why not help us?"

SEIU 775 wants lawmakers to extend hazard pay before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 25.

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.
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