Oregon’s 2021 legislative session was truly historic. The session began with a bleak economic outlook that was buoyed by a series of improved revenue projections and a one-time infusion of $2.6 billion in federal aid. Thanks to the advocacy of SEIU members and our partners, these resources translated into historic investments in our essential public services. While our campaign for Essential Worker Pay didn’t materialize before the session ended, SEIU 503 members racked up significant wins in 2021 that set us up to win good contracts and strengthen our communities. We also saw another first: (former) Representative and Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow Mike Nearman was expelled by his peers for allowing rioters into the Capitol.

Homecare and Personal Support 

Homecare and Personal Support Workers were on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing to serve their clients and consumers despite the risk to themselves and their families. The work of our members kept thousands of Oregonians out of congregate care settings devastated by COVID, undoubtedly saving countless lives throughout the last year. When the American Rescue Plan passed in March, our union jumped on a huge opportunity to ensure resources went to our members: the bill included a 10% increase to the FMAP (Medicaid) rate for Home and Community Based Care Services (HCBS). Through our members’ advocacy we were able to secure one-time pandemic payments and increased resources for wages and benefits. This year’s bargaining pot is $30.1 million, a 50% increase from 2019, which brings our total resources for bargaining our next contract to nearly $80 million.

Nursing Homes and Long-Term Care 

On the heels of a global pandemic that laid bare inadequacies in our state’s long-term care system, our union led an effort that resulted in Oregon Legislators taking a bold step forward to reform the way seniors and people with disabilities are supported in Oregon. A package of bills passed in the final days of the legislative session aim to address staffing issues (SB 266 and SB 714), lead to more transparency (SB 703), and provide access to healthcare for workers (SB 800) at Oregon’s long-term care facilities. In addition, legislators increased the amount of public funding going toward long-term care facilities with the intention of raising wages and creating opportunities for companies to invest in their infrastructure.

Senate Bill 800 

Long-term care workers outpace Oregon’s general population when it comes to being under/uninsured. The last year has exposed how dangerous it can be when frontline healthcare workers don’t have access to meaningful healthcare. SB 800 invests $30 million to create a healthcare trust so that long-term care workers will have access to quality affordable healthcare. This will include people working in assisted living and other residential care settings like DD group homes and even private home care agencies. 

Senate Bill 266

This bill codifies CMS requirements around meeting the 24-hour personal needs of residents and recipients of Medicaid. It clarifies what scheduled and unscheduled needs are when it comes to evaluating whether or not someone’s personal needs are being met. SB 266 requires that safe staffing levels be considered when any complaint or violation is being investigated

The policy also states that APD may impose an enhanced oversight and supervision program if a provider fails to meet the needs of residents, and participation of the enhanced oversight and supervision will be made publicly available. 

Senate Bill 703 

This bill will build clarity and representation in long-term care systems. It adds a direct care worker seat to the Quality Measurement Council, where the safe staffing acuity tool will be developed. It will produce a cost of care study that would build a more clear and transparent picture of what the cost of providing residential services are versus rates of reimbursements. 

It requires that uniform disclosure statements are submitted to the state and made publicly available. This information helps residents and stakeholders understand services provided and the quality of care expected based on staffing, wages, and turnover.

Senate Bill 714 

This bill creates safe staffing standards. It requires memory care-endorsed facilities to use an acuity-based staffing tool and makes other residential care facilities subject to an acuity-based staffing tool if they cannot prove they are staffing to safe levels after an investigation reveals they are not meeting the needs of residents. It also places safe staffing at the center of surveys and investigations conducted by the Oregon Department of Human Services.