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How shutdown hurts California programs & budget

California won’t take too much of a hit in the short term, but stands to lose a lot if the federal government shutdown lasts more than a brief time, according to the state Department of Finance.

Deputy Director H.D. Palmer said federal funds for unemployment insurance benefits, MediCal, and supplemental security income/state supplementary payment grants for the elderly, blind or disabled will continue uninterrupted.

But while there’s enough money to keep the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – formerly called food stamps – afloat through October for the 1.9 million California households that rely on it, that funding will dry up in November. It’s the same scenario for school nutrition programs that serve 4.5 million meals per day mostly to low-income students. And money for the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program will last only through late November. (I’d link to the SNAP and WIC programs, but the shutdown already has affected their web pages.)

“The longer this goes on, the greater uncertainty there will be for funding some of these programs,” Palmer said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, California – home to more federal employees than Washington, D.C., – will see a lot of government workers not drawing paychecks, and thus unable to spend their money in their communities or pay their bills. Communities near national parks such as Yosemite will suffer even more while those parks are shuttered, cutting off the tourist flow.

But the worst of it come if Congress refuses to raise the nation’s debt ceiling by Oct. 17 and the nation defaults on its debt, Palmer said. The resulting financial market instability could decimate the capital gains and stock options on which California depends for a huge chunk of its tax revenue, he said, blowing a big, red hole in a state budget that only recently was brought back into the black.

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Judge issues temporary order to halt IHSS cuts

A federal judge in Oakland has issued a temporary restraining order to keep California from implementing a 20 percent across-the-board cut in the In-Home Supportive Services program on Jan. 1.

IHSS is meant as an alternative to nursing homes or other out-of-home institutionalization for the elderly, disabled and blind. The deep cut was part of the state budget deal passed earlier this year.

But U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken found that the planned cut “will cause immediate and irreparable harm by placing members of the plaintiff class at imminent and serious risk of harm to their health and safety, as well as unnecessary and unwanted out-of-home placement including institutionalization.”

The order gives a coalition of disability rights and senior-citizen advocacy groups, plus labor unions representing IHSS workers, more time to make a case to overturn the cut completely. A hearing on a preliminary injunction in the case is scheduled for Dec. 15.

The TRO will remain in effect until there is a hearing in which the Court will decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction. This hearing is tentatively scheduled for December 15th.

“We are pleased that Judge Wilken recognized the urgency of preventing the state from moving ahead with this devastating cut that would affect nearly 400,000 elderly and disabled Californians,” Doug Moore, executive director of the 65,000-member UDW Homecare Providers Union and an international vice president of AFSCME, said in a news release. “We believe these cuts to IHSS would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws and need to be stopped immediately.”