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REPORT: Washington State Faces Home Care Worker Shortage

February 23, 2012

Washington State will need an additional 440,000 home care workers between now and 2030 to meet the rising demand for home care, according to a report on worker turnover published by SEIU Healthcare 775NW.

The SEIU’s projection assumes an annual turnover rate of 35 percent. Currently, home care worker turnover in Washington averages around 50 percent a year, the report states.

The report argues that turnover is so high because of:

  • home care workers’ frustration with low wages;
  • inconsistent, part-time hours;
  • inadequate benefits; and
  • a lack of career opportunities.

The authors of the report therefore recommend several steps to boost retention among home care workers in Washington, including:

  • raising hourly wages to at least $17.58;
  • developing strategies to ensure that workers have stable hours;
  • improving the health insurance and retirement benefits available to workers;
  • expanding the pool of home care workers who are eligible for such benefits; and
  • creating career advancement opportunities.

State Budget Woes Linger

Implementing such steps, however, seems unlikely given the state’s current $2 billion budget shortfall, reports the Columbian.

Washington officials cited the state’s budgetary problems when it cut home care services by eight hours a month for certain Medicaid recipients.

On February 21, twelve home care workers associated with SEIU were arrested after staging a sit-in protest against these cuts at the state Office of Administrative Hearings in Vancouver, Washington.

The cuts, which took effect February 1, were enacted by the state Department of Social and Health Services via an emergency ruling, allowing it to bypass the state legislature.

— by Matthew Ozga

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