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California Gov. Brown Proposes Cuts to the IHSS Domestic-Assistance Program

January 19, 2012

To help fill the $9.2 billion gap in California’s 2012-2013 budget, Governor Jerry Brown’s (D) budget proposal includes cuts of $163.8 million to the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program by eliminating domestic assistance — such as meal preparation, food shopping, laundry, and housework — for clients who reside in the same home as their caregivers.

The IHSS program provides personal care — including help with bathing, dressing, toileting, and feeding — and domestic services to about 435,000 low-income elders, the blind, and people with disabilities who live in their own homes but are at risk for nursing home placement without the services and supports that the program provides.

About 60 percent of IHSS clients would be affected should the proposed cuts take effect at the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, according to an article in the Sacramento Bee.

The caregivers, many of whom are family members, receive hourly wages and benefits between $8 and $14.78, reports the publication.

Cuts Deemed “Unwise”

Calling the proposed cuts to the IHSS “unwise,” a Los Angeles Times editorial says that “Slashing or ending that care means people in need will have to go to nursing homes, which can also be on the state tab but are more expensive.”

“The general public does not understand how easy it is to end up in a nursing home because it is the only place where care will be provided,” explained San Francisco IHSS Public Authority Executive Director Donna Calame, who is also a PHI board member.

“Sometimes, the simple acts of assisting someone with food shopping and preparation are all that keep a person well nourished and out of a hospital or nursing home. For a very few number of hours per IHSS consumer per month, California will not be saving very much money with these cuts and is risking much higher public expenditures for care in an institution.”

The state’s share of the IHSS Program costs is projected to be about $1.4 billion for 2012-13; the remaining costs are covered by state and county funds, reports the Sacramento Bee.

“There is an institutional bias in public funding of long-term services and supports,” Calame said. “IHSS advocates certainly hope the legislature will reject this proposal from Governor Brown.”

Brown has also proposed closing the budget gap by increasing revenues through a temporary half-cent sales tax increase and imposing higher taxes on the rich. A ballot measure which will be voted on in next November’s election will determine whether these proposals will become effective.

California had planned to cut the IHSS Program services by 20 percent beginning on January 1, as part of automatic, midyear across-the-board cuts enacted to offset tax revenue shortfalls. Disability Rights California filed a suit contending that these cuts violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a U.S. District Court judge ruled to temporarily halt them.

— by Deane Beebe

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