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Calif. Governor Proposes to Cap Hours for Home Care Aides

January 23, 2014

Just days after California Governor Jerry Brown (D) released his budget plan for fiscal year 2014-2015, advocates for elders and people with disabilities protested at the state’s capitol on January 14 about a budget proposal that would prohibit home care workers employed in the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program from working overtime.

Brown’s proposal calls for capping the total number of hours that the home care workers employed in the state-funded program can work at 40 hours a week, effectively eliminating overtime pay.

The governor’s proposal comes on the heels of a new rule on the Fair Labor Standards Act‘s companionship exemption, published by the U.S. Department of Labor, that extends home care workers federal minimum wage and overtime protections beginning January 1, 2015.

Roughly 360,000 home care aides provide long-term services and supports to 450,000 consumers in the IHSS program, which serves people who are enrolled in the Medi-Cal program and are age 65+, live with a disability, or are blind. Of consumers in the IHSS, about 37,500 — or 8 percent — receive more than 160 hours of assistance a month from one caregiver, the Los Angeles Times reports.

PHI President Responds

In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, PHI President Jodi Sturgeon responds to the California governor’s proposal to limit IHSS workers’ hours.

“It’s really going to create chaos for recipients and for present caregivers,” Gary Passmore, vice president of the advocacy group Congress of California Seniors, is quoted as saying in a Capital & Main article.

About 70 percent of caregivers in the IHSS are relatives, reports the article. “Just because they are a family member doesn’t disqualify them from having worker rights,” Passmore says.

PHI President Jodi Sturgeon calls Brown’s proposal to eliminate overtime “a needlessly rigid response to the new U.S. Department of Labor rule,” because consumer needs and worker situations vary case by case.

“Rather than an overarching rule restricting overtime, the state must balance the needs of consumers, workers, and taxpayers,” Sturgeon said. “In some cases, splitting hours between two workers will reduce exhaustion and injuries. In other cases, the consumer’s disability and family situation may indeed require overtime pay.”

If the goal for the state is to save money, Brown is going about it the wrong way, Sturgeon says. A PHI analysis found that even if a home care worker were to receive overtime pay when working the maximum allowable service hours (283 hours per month), the cost of home care would still be 25 percent less than nursing home care.

For a PHI analysis on overtime hours and costs in the IHSS, see Value the Care — High-Hour Consumers in the California IHSS Program: Impact of Compensating Overtime Hours.

— by Deane Beebe

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