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California | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Fed Judge Blocks California from Reducing Wages of In-Home Supporters of Seniors/Disabled
by R. Robertson
Friday Jul 17th, 2009 3:32 PM
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the California General Assembly approved wage reductions for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) employees in February as part of an overall budget reduction proposal.
But on July 14 a federal judge ruled that the state must pay IHSS workers their existing wages and not reduce their pay. While there are many other options to fixing the budget on the revenue side, including taxing oil companies the way the other states tax them, legislators are trying to rescue the California budget by reducing services for some of the state's most vulnerable, including seniors, blind and otherwise disabled adults and children.

Photo by Eve Moran of July 15 demonstration in front of Gov. Schwarzenegger's San Francisco office. Protesters, including many with disabilities, called for an end to budget proposals that would slash funds for services for the disabled.

On Monday, July 14 a federal judge ruled that the state must pay IHSS workers their existing wages and not reduce their pay by the $2.00 an hour legislators approved. The governor and the legislature had conspired to bring down home health worker wages to between $9.50 and $10.10 per hour, and to cut 60 cents in benefits.

The IHSS Program helps pay for services provided so that people can remain safely in their own homes. Recipients of IHSS care must be over 65 years of age, or disabled, or blind. Disabled children are also eligible for IHSS. IHSS is considered an alternative to out-of-home care, such as nursing homes or board and care facilities, and actually saves the state money in the long run.

Most people who get IHSS services also have Medi-Cal and some of those people must pay a certain amount each month toward their medical expenses in a share of cost scheme, similar to a private insurance plan’s out-of-pocket deductible.

IHSS is not out of the woods yet. Schwarzenegger continues to target services for the needy and In-Home Supportive Services is still on the chopping block; the governor has proposed eliminating in-home supportive services for all but the most severely disabled. He has also accused IHSS as being "rife with fraud", failing to see the irony of his unsubstantiated accusation. With his ruling class attitude the Governor fails to acknowledge the vast dollar amounts that corporate fraud costs the taxpayer.

On July 15th the California Teachers Association joined advocates for seniors and people with disabilities in front of the State Building in San Francisco, where the governor maintains an office, to protest proposed cuts to budgets for human services. The demonstration, organized by the San Francisco Labor Council, was covered by national media and brought attention to the serious nature of proposed cuts and how they would affect populations including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Demonstrators heckled a masked "Arnie" impersonator with an oversized cigar and carried placards reading, "Don't let our state's future go up in smoke."