Full-time city worker could be eligible for food stamps

by: Natasha Chen Updated:

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Jason Tooley has a history degree from the University of Washington and volunteered with the Peace Corps.

And he's one of the hundreds of Seattle government workers who say a pay bump would help pay for basic necessities.

“I make $13.68,” Tooley said.

Mayor Ed Murray wants raises for Tooley and some 800 other city workers, advocating they earn at least $15 an hour.

Tooley’s job as a recreation assistant with the Parks Department means he's part mentor, customer service representative and events and logistics coordinator.

“We are the embodiment of where the rubber meets the road for the Parks Department to provide its services to the public and it's kind of a messy place sometimes,” he said. “The work that I do, I particularly think it is worth more than the money that it is paid and that's kind of a bummer sometimes; especially, when I'm trying to afford food.”

He's classified as a part-time employee but works full-time hours at the Northgate Rec Center.

His salary has him on the cusp of being eligible for food stamps.

“I might actually be eligible for basic food assistance and it's something I'm applying for because at the wage I work and live at it is difficult to afford that necessity," he said.

KIRO 7 obtained Bureau of Labor Statistics data and were surprised to learn how many working Washingtonians make a similar salary.

We discovered about 31 percent of people identified in Washington are making less than $15 an hour.

Murray's proposed raise for adult city workers is estimated to cost about a million dollars a year, according to the city budget department.

The mayor has not determined if it would require a tax increase.

Socialist Councilmember Kshama Sawant suggests reducing managers' salaries to fund rank and file raises.

“If you cap their salaries at $150,000 a year, the city can generate $1.1 million,” said Sawant.

Tooley believes a raise is a step toward fair compensation for work that requires navigating complex computer systems and government regulations.

“There’s a whole slew of background things that people who make use of the park services don't necessarily see,” Tooley said.

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