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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane in-home care company experiencing drop in applicants despite high unemployment rate

Liberty Lake-based Family Resource Home Care is experiencing a rise in demand for its in-home care services for the disabled and elderly but is struggling to attract applicants despite high unemployment levels in Spokane County and the state.

As an independent in-home care provider with eight locations in Washington and Idaho, Family Resource expected to gain employees as people were laid off from food service or retail jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. But that hasn’t been the case, said CEO Jeff Wiberg.

When the CARES Act introduced an additional $600-a week-unemployment insurance benefit that went into effect in April, Family Resource was among business owners concerned the extra amount would deter people from returning to work because it would exceed workers’ normal wages when coupled with weekly state unemployment benefits.

Although Family Resource received an influx of caregiver applications in May, activity leveled off in the following months and some applicants told the company they could make more collecting unemployment benefits than the $15-$16 an hour paid to work as a caregiver, Wiberg said.

Spokane County’s unemployment rate reached an all-time high of 16.1% in April. It has since fallen to 9.7% in June, but weekly state unemployment claims remain at unprecedented levels, according to the Washington State Employment Security Department.

“We would love to capture some of the jobs that were lost,” Wiberg said.

Wiberg said caregiving might not be for everyone, but potential applicants may not get an opportunity to learn about what the company has to offer employees unless there’s some incentive for people to return to work again.

“I’m not a fan of taking away of what’s going to help people put food on the table, but I’m a fan of creating a system for an incentive for folks to go to work,” Wiberg said, adding that he understands some peoples’ fear of working amid COVID-19.

“For those that are in a good position to take work where it’s available, we are one-and-one care, so it’s about as safe as we can get.”

Family Resource has a need to immediately fill 30 caregiver positions and is aiming to hire 50 employees in August to maintain operations and keep up with demand for services. The company plans to increase its advertising to attract applicants, Wiberg said.

In the meantime, Wiberg is closely following the discussion surrounding the proposed coronavirus relief package in the U.S. Congress.

The House bill would extend the $600 weekly benefit through January, while the Senate bill proposes to decrease the weekly benefit to $200 a week and eventually replace it with a benefit capped at 70% of a worker’s prior income when combined with state unemployment insurance.

“I’m interested to see what the final negotiations are with the House and Senate bills,” Wiberg said. “This unemployment thing is something I’m really waiting with bated breath to know what the final outcome could be.”

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