SEATTLE -- Long-term care advocates in Washington state are rallying against budget cuts they say would be disastrous for the state's most vulnerable residents.
As the state grapples with COVID-19's economic fallout, agencies are being asked to consider what cuts look like. The worst-case scenario would slash $220 million from Washington's Medicaid long-term care services budget.
Cathy MacCaul, advocacy director for AARP Washington, says that would affect more than 20,000 older residents and people with disabilities.
"This is not the time to cut the long-term care budget. These are the most vulnerable of our community, and also the most susceptible to the COVID virus," says MacCaul. "So, we do not want to undermine the system that helps protect those individuals."
Other groups urging the state not to make these cuts include Casa Latina, Catholic Community Services and the home-care workers' union, SEIU 775.
According to MacCaul, many people receive services in their homes, helping them with such daily tasks as getting dressed and preparing meals. So, cuts also would hurt caregivers at a time when millions of people are unemployed.
As MacCaul puts it, "We'd better recognize that one of the largest industries is home-care workers, and this could also have a devastating impact on the ability for long-term care workers to have work."
She says she understands that lawmakers will have to make tough budget decisions, but hopes they won't cripple the safety net for vulnerable Washingtonians -- as cuts to long-term care services could have long-lasting effects.
"It might be something that we can't recover from, and it could make it difficult for future seniors as they need assistance with long-term care," she explained, "that they might not be able to be eligible, and might not be able to receive that type of care."
Lawmakers are preparing for a special session to address the state's budget shortfall, but a date has not yet been set.