Brown budget will force caregivers further into poverty

Contrary to first appearances, Brown budget contains a stinging hit that will disrupt care and slash pay

Sacramento, CA –  People with disabilities, seniors, and their caregivers joined together today to highlight the devastating consequences of a hidden cut to the In-Home Supportive Services program in the Brown Administration’s budget.

“If Governor Brown is successful in denying caregivers overtime pay, it would devastate my family,” said Mary Burch, a provider from Modesto who takes care of her 40-year-old daughter with a developmental disability. “I would lose over 100 hours of pay each month—a 40% cut to my income–and likely lose my house.”

“The IHSS program promises people in need with the chance to stay healthy at home. But without being able to rely on consistent, quality care, that promise is empty” said Gary Passmore, Vice President of the Congress of California Seniors. “IHSS was already cut to the bone in the name of the budget crisis. Now, in a time of surplus, the Governor proposes to create more inequality and put vulnerable and frail people at risk. With a $6 billion surplus, I have no doubt the state can afford to invest in good care. It’s time to fight.”

While the budget gives the appearance of beginning to restore investment in a program that has saved money for the state by enabling seniors and people with disabilities to live healthy in their homes rather than in more costly settings, a hidden proposal to prohibit caregivers from working beyond 40 hours per week delivers a sharp blow to IHSS clients and the people who care for them.  The proposal would:

Force Caregivers Into Poverty:  By prohibiting work after 40 hours, the proposal sharply limits the ability of caregivers to provide for their families.  Many who do this demanding but low-paying work piece together long shifts just to put food on the table.  The Governor’s proposal would push a caregiver earning $9.00 per hour whose hours are cut from 50 to 40 a week below the federal poverty line for a family of three.

Disproportionately Impact Women of Color:  Like so many attacks on low-wage work, this hidden cut delivers its sharpest blow to people of color who do important yet backbreaking work to provide the basics for their families. A preliminary survey of IHSS payroll data shows that 15-20% of caregivers work overtime hours, and over 70% of these are women.

Disrupt Care: Seniors and people with disabilities who require care beyond 40 hour a week will be forced to rely on temporary or alternative caregivers with less experience and familiarity with their unique needs.  Especially concerning are the impacts on children and adults with autism for whom consistency is an essential part of care, and elderly patients with dementia who can suffer adverse consequences in the hands of unfamiliar caregivers.

Come with Hidden Costs:  The budget doesn’t account for the increased social service costs to the state from workers forced into poverty, or increased health care demand from clients as quality, continuous care is compromised. What’s more, it will require establishing a new system to manage a temporary caregiver pool, an unneeded bureaucracy for a program that has prioritized empowering IHSS clients to select, hire, and fire their workers.

“The Administration’s proposal deals a devastating blow to people with developmental disabilities, especially those living with autism and other disabilities who depend upon stable, consistent, and quality care to prevent major life disruptions or setbacks,” said Tony Anderson, Executive Director, The Arc of California, an advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.   “The relationship between a client and their caregiver is what makes California’s in-home care program strong.  This proposal most hurts clients who require the most support, because they’ll be forced to patch together a network of caregivers from a temporary pool, without regard to their unique needs.”

Just a few months ago, a federal decision finally included in-home caregivers in the basic overtime protections that all other workers enjoy. This ruling, part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, will take effect on January 1, 2015.  But instead of embracing equal pay and fair treatment for low-wage caregivers, who are predominantly women of color, the Brown Administration has proposed to slash their hours to prohibit them from drawing overtime under the FLSA.

“The Governor’s proposal would undermine my family, destabilize our finances, and disrupt my sons’ care. I don’t think he has thought this through very carefully, and I would love to share with him the realities my family faces,” said Marta Cobos, IHSS provider in Sacramento who cares for her twin sons, both with severe autism.

Today’s event comes as Governor Brown wraps up a two-day swing through California to tout his budget plan.

“My brother Bobby is the reason I became involved in IHSS. I take care of him 24 hours a day, seven days a week because he can’t safely live on his own.  If my work is limited to 40 hours, who will come to Sierra County to help him survive?”  said Carol Iman, a provider who cares for her brother with mental disabilities. “We can do better than to leave our loved ones reliant on inexperienced caregivers. I strongly urge legislators to reject this short-sighted proposal.”

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