Seattle’s home care industry is facing a potential crisis: difficulty hiring caregivers. Entry-level and low-wage workers appear to be in short supply. Competition is fierce and since the city has raised the minimum wage to $16 per hour (for larger corporations, but only $12 per hour for government workers), there is no shortage of people looking for these lower wage and entry level jobs, but for anything requiring certification or that is deemed physically and mentally challenging, they may focus on less strenuous opportunities.
Recently, a home care agency raised its offer to $17 per hour, but since home care aides need to go through a 75 hour state program in order to be certified, these compounding factors have made it extremely difficult to find enough home care aides for the influx of work available.
It’s not just within the home care industry that agencies and organizations are struggling to fill lower wage positions; the TSA is also struggling to fill basic positions and that is leaving travelers standing in longer lines because fewer security checkpoints are available.
According to The Columbian news blog, With Seattle’s entry-level workforce in high demand, employers struggle to keep up, written by Paul Roberts:
“A troubling case in point: At SeaTac International Airport, the Transportation Security Administration faces a 90-percent turnover rate among screeners, despite temporarily raising wages from $15 to $20. “In my time at Sea-Tac, TSA has never had the staff to open every single screening lane at our airport,” Lance Lyttle, the airport’s managing director, explained during Congressional testimony Tuesday.
All this hot demand has been good news for low-skill workers, a group that missed out on the region’s tech-fueled economic boom.
“There are so many agencies looking for home care aides now,” says Isatou Gassama, a 29-year-old home care aide who was recruited by Careforce just a few weeks ago.
That increasing demand has showed up in wages that are often well above the minimums mandated by Seattle ($16 an hour for large employers) and the state ($12).”
Home care is an essential service that allows aging men and women as well as disabled adults the opportunity to remain home, even if they’re struggling with basic care. As the baby boomer generation retires, it’s placing increased demand on these services.
Without being able to fill open positions, home care agencies will be unable to provide necessary services to growing numbers of seniors and disabled adults. Medicaid has reduced reimbursement rates for home care support services, so the only way an agency would be able to offer a higher entry-level wage will be through private pay and that raises the cost for each and every client, which –for growing numbers of seniors– may not be an option.