OLYMPIA — Bonnie Epps only gets paid for five hours a day, even though she works almost 24 as a caregiver. That’s $50 per day for an around-the-clock job taking care of a disabled person’s most basic needs.
And Epps is one of thousands who say they could lose their jobs altogether if cuts to in-home care hours for seniors and people with disabilities are approved by the Legislature during the 30-day special session that started Monday.
Epps and several other Tri-Citians boarded a bus early Monday to drive to Olympia to tell lawmakers to find somewhere else to cut.
They participated in protests that reportedly drew 3,000 people to the capitol steps.
Epps is not just worried about her job, but about the lives of people who depend on paid caregivers to stay in their homes.
“This isn’t right what they’re doing to the most vulnerable,” she said.
Gov. Chris Gregoire has asked the Legislature to cut $2 billion from the state budget in the next month to make up a $1.4 billion deficit and leave $600 million in reserves.
Among the cuts she proposed is to reduce reimbursement rates for home care providers and to reduce eligibility for services so that about 1,300 fewer people would qualify for personal care.
Seniors, people with disabilities and their advocates have said the cuts would be disastrous for the people who need the services, while the Service Employees International Union 775 Northwest said the cuts will result in thousands of home care workers losing their jobs.
Sherrie Torrence of Richland is a former caregiver who now needs care herself following two strokes and a brain aneurysm. She also is legally blind, and needs help with cooking and everyday household chores, and to help her remember when to take life-saving medication — which also is on the chopping block in Gregoire’s proposed budget.
Torrence also participated in the statehouse protests Monday because she is terrified of losing her services.
“It’s pretty scary when you can have a few people who have your life in their hands,” she said. “As they’re squeezing and squeezing, people are starting to get scared ... to the point of what’s the point of living?”
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; email@example.com