Councilmember Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park) and Councilmember Andrew Lewis, (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia) released a statement, calling the 2 percent wage increase for human services workers included in Mayor Bruce Harrell’s proposed budget a solid step towards closing the pay penalty gap as identified by this Council in June through Resolution 32094.
“We rely on human services workers to tackle the city’s biggest crises, from homelessness to hunger, childcare and elder care. In the wake of a landmark University of Washington study that demonstrates how underpaying these workers negatively affects our entire community, I am thankful Mayor Harrell included wage increases in his proposal. This will serve as a solid foundation as we begin discussions about how to create real wage equity for our mission-critical human services workers,” said Councilmember Herbold, Chair of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee.
“Human services workers are public safety workers, period. We need to increase the pay for the professionals who do this demanding front-line work and insist that other levels of government do the same. Mayor Harrell’s budget includes a critical pay increase to attract and retain workers in this often overlooked sector. I commend and support Mayor Harrell’s leadership in advancing this important investment,” said Councilmember Lewis, Chair of the Public Assets and Homelessness Committee.
In June, the Seattle City Council passed a resolution declaring the Council’s intent to consider funding seven percent wage increases for human services workers by 2025 to address the city’s staffing crisis.
That 7 percent recommendation comes from a University of Washington study that found nonprofit human services workers are paid 37 percent less than workers in other industries, despite the fact their work is not easier, not less skilled, nor less demanding.
Human services providers testified to the real-world impact of low wages:
- YouthCare testified they struggle to meet the needs of the homeless youth they serve because their nearly 200 staff are working double shifts and second jobs, and are still one unexpected expense away from financial crisis
- Multiple childcare classrooms – including some desperately needed for infants – are going empty because nonprofits can’t find staff who will accept the pay they can afford to offer.
- Crisis Connections experiences a 50% staff turnover rate due to low wages, even as they serve as the frontline for thousands of people experiencing a behavioral health crisis on the worst day of their lives.
This pay inequity undermines Seattle’s ability to address the homelessness crisis. A 2022 King County Regional Homelessness Authority survey found the five largest homelessness services 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.