Seattle City Council passes resolution to increase pay for social service workers

Jun 21, 2023, 12:01 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2023, 12:48 pm

seattle social service workers...

Dana Vanderford, Associate Director, Homelessness Prevention Housing for Health holds hands with client Mashawn Cross during a visit along with Senior Community Health Worker Kourtni Gouché, right. (Robert Gauthier via Getty Images)

(Robert Gauthier via Getty Images)

In response to Seattle’s staffing crisis among social service workers, the city council passed a resolution to increase the pay for those within the industry.

“It is impossible to end our homelessness emergency without full staffing and fairly paying human services work,” said Councilmember Lisa Herbold, the sponsor of the resolution. “These workers are on the streets every day helping people in their hour of greatest need. We rely on them to tackle the city’s biggest crises, from homelessness to hunger, childcare, and elder care.”

The University of Washington published a study in March finding nonprofit human services workers are paid 37% less than workers in other industries or sectors whose tasks are rated as comparable through a systematic job evaluation process. Those who leave the human services industry for other work get a 7% increase in net pay within just a year of leaving.

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“From 2014 to 2019, one of our parent-child plus managers received a wage increase of only 65 cents an hour over five years,” Janice Deguchi, the Executive Director of Neighborhood House, told KIRO Newsradio. Neighborhood House is a non-profit that provides education and housing, health, and disability services for low-income residents.

Deguchi addressed the council before they voted to support exploring ways to increase pay for human service workers, including more money for agencies hired by the city that employs them.

“Ironically, one of our housing stability coordinators left King County to live with her parents in Georgia because she could no longer afford to live here,” Deguchi continued.

A 2022 King County Regional Homelessness Authority survey found the five largest homelessness service providers in King County had more than 300 vacant positions they could not fill. The staffing shortage is so severe it has restricted our region’s ability to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets even after we have created new housing for them to live in, according to the Seattle City Council.

“Wherever we send them for housing or other services, there’s a long wait — this is directly related to low staffing and high turnover at human services agencies,” Amy Lee Derenthal with the Senior Center of West Seattle told KIRO Newsradio.

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With the council acknowledging there is a significant wage inequity among nonprofit human services workers, the resolution creates a roadmap for the City of Seattle to address the disparity. The city will request recommendations from private and public funders to make progress on wage equity collectively while also considering recommendations increasing the Human Services Department-administered contracts by 7% by 2025 for increased wages.

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Seattle City Council passes resolution to increase pay for social service workers