Santa Maria Sun Commentary
BY YESENIA DECASAUS
We need legislators to focus on increasing state revenue instead of cutting vital social programs to compensate for the budget shortfall
For six years, I have represented thousands of homecare workers. I am a Santa Maria resident and the Central California Coordinator for UDW: local 3930 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents about 900 homecare workers in Santa Maria who serve elderly and disabled clients through the In-Home Support Services Program.
My own father, a seriously disabled war veteran, would have been unavoidably institutionalized had my family not been able to hire homecare workers, who tirelessly helped my mother while my brother and I were in school. Every day, I encounter similar situations: frail and disabled people who would have no choice but being moved to a nursing facility if in-home care were not available, many of whom have no family at all to help them, who are completely dependent upon the program for their meals and laundry. Those who do have family to help them realize their loved ones would be forced to quit jobs or else commit them to nursing homes if the program were absent.
Consider my friend Stephanie, a single mother whose young daughter has Down syndrome. Stephanie wants her daughter to live at home, but her child requires constant help. Thanks only to the in-home supportive services program, Stephanie can provide care for her daughter while continuing to earn enough income to support her child and herself. Because I know firsthand the critical need for such home services, I was appalled when Gov. Brown announced almost $1 billion in so-called trigger cuts to health and human services and education programs. Those cuts are the consequence of the most recent state budget, which counted on California receiving $4 billion more in revenue by the end of the year than the state will actually see.
When it became certain state revenue would fall so short, the governor cut social services to make up the budget difference. Those cuts include slashing $100 million from in-home supportive services, $100 million from developmental disability services, $8.6 million from Medi-Cal, and more than $22 million from childcare programs. Since 2008, California has cut $15 billion from health and human services—year after year of reducing those services when our communities are struggling more than ever to make ends meet. Is it surprising a recent Sacramento Bee poll finds two-thirds of Californians think the cuts are a bad decision?
The cuts, however, were not inevitable. This year, Republicans—including Santa Maria’s representative, State Senator Sam Blakeslee—refused to consider reasonable revenue solutions. As a direct result of their intransigence, Santa Maria’s most vulnerable families are sacrificed to the shortfall, while corporations and other interests that could readily afford to help are freed from sharing the burden.
Dozens of Blakeslee’s constituents rallied outside his San Luis Obispo office on Dec. 15 to protest the cuts. The event was among five simultaneous demonstrations throughout California in a campaign by families, their caregivers, and health-service advocates to urge lawmakers to solve the crisis by increasing revenue instead of making cuts to the already tattered social safety net.
Nearly one quarter of the children in California are being raised in poverty: Now is unquestionably the time to mend the social safety net, not destroy it. We must restore programs that help our children grow up healthy and well educated. We must restore programs that enable seniors and people who have disabilities to live independently. These programs create and sustain critically important jobs, among them those of home health-care workers who belong to the Santa Maria community, who contribute to the local economy and pay taxes. I am proud to say I am one of them.
I’m adding my voice to the hundreds of people who recently rallied against the trigger cuts. On behalf of the elderly and disabled Santa Maria residents who depend on in-home supportive services, and the workers devoted to their care, here is our message: This is the time for revenue solutions, not more cuts.
Yesenia Decasaus is the mother of four children. Send comments via the opinion editor at email@example.com.