Restaurants and nursing homes in Washington are hoping to fill hundreds of jobs, perhaps even thousands, if Gov. Gary Locke signs legislation overhauling the welfare system.
Locke has until midnight Thursday to sign or veto the 215-page bill that would limit recipients to five years of aid during their lifetimes, with strict new work requirements.
Critics complain that House Bill 3901 relies on reduced caseloads to pay for services such as child care and job training. As many as 9,000 of the state’s 92,000 welfare recipients would have to find work in the next two years so the government could use the savings to help others.
Owners of restaurants, nursing homes and other businesses with high employee turnover say they’re ready to fill that immediate need. It’s not glamorous work, but they say there’s room for advancement in businesses anxious to improve stability in the workforce.
“I don’t need trained or very skilled people. What I really need is somebody who wants to go to work,” Pat Davis, owner of Downrigger’s Restaurant in Port Angeles, told lawmakers during a recent Senate hearing.
He recalled hiring a single mother of two daughters seven years ago who’s now the restaurant’s general manager and owns a piece of the business.
Kit Hawkins, lobbyist for the Washington Restaurant Association, estimated there are about 2,000 job openings available with member employers, with cash wages ranging from $6 an hour to $14 an hour.
Restaurants aren’t the only ones looking for workers.
Some 320 nursing homes and boarding homes for the elderly employ a total of 25,000 people, according to Jerry Reilly, executive director of the Washington Health Care Association. They’re always looking to fill positions for nursing assistants, cooks, landscapers and housekeepers, and he has challenged each of the group’s members to hire four welfare recipients a year.
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