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.


Leland Yee: Personal domestic attendant

Leland Yee: Child psychologist, county supervisor, school board member, state lawmaker – and now, personal domestic attendant.

Leland YeeFor a day, at least. Yee, D-San Francisco, will work Wednesday as an attendant to Ursula McGuire, 77, a board member at Senior and Disability Action. Yee’s duties will include helping McGuire with her weekly shopping, and so he’s holding an 11 a.m. news conference at a Target store in San Francisco.

He’s trying to call attention to AB 241, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which would extend labor protections such as overtime pay and meal and rest breaks to domestic workers. Current state law’s protections for such workers are vague in places and omit some workers entirely, Yee says.

The California Domestic Workers Coalition says the state has more than 200,000 housekeepers, nannies, caregivers and others in private homes – primarily immigrant women who are their own families’ primary earners. Without them, many of those they serve would have trouble remaining in the workforce as well, the coalition contends – yet many domestic workers have been paid wages below the poverty line and remain excluded from some basic labor protections.

Opponents of Ammiano’s bill, including the California Association for Health Services at Home and various individual home-care companies and individuals, argue it would reduce their ability to provide affordable care to elderly or disabled clients and would make it very hard to provide care to those needing around-the-clock assistance, according to a state Senate staff analysis.

The Assembly in May voted 45-25 to pass AB 241; the state Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee in June passed it 3-1; and it’s scheduled to be heard next Monday, Aug. 12, by the Senate Appropriations Committee.


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.”


Bipartisan call to protect IHSS from cuts

As the state budget process inches forward, even some Republicans are now saying that deep cuts to the state’s In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program may be ill-advised because they’ll cost California more in the long run.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal includes cutting all IHSS funding for domestic services – things such as cooking, cleaning and laundry – for certain recipients; foes of the plan say this would mean more than 380,000 elderly and disabled people losing this aid. The budget also includes a proposed 8.4 percent cut to all IHSS recipient hours, atop the 3.6 percent cuts from the 2010 budget.

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle held a news conference this morning in Sacramento to express concerns.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that cutting IHSS will have a negative impact on our state’s economy as well as local economies,” said Assemblyman Jim Silva, R-Huntington Beach, according to a news release issued by the UDW Homecare Providers Union. “As a former Orange County Supervisor, I’ve seen firsthand that IHSS is much more cost-effective than institutional care.”

The release said Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Riverside, recognized some inefficiency in the program, but said he doesn’t believe cuts are the solution. “Instead, the Governor and the Legislature should be seeking to improve standards and oversight for IHSS to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being maximized.”

Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucaipa, also voiced support for IHSS, the release said. “I am not one of those Republicans who say all government is bad government. I believe that government has a responsibility to take care of children, the elderly, disabled and veterans in the most humane, cost-effective way possible,” he said. “And I believe that cutting IHSS benefits would be an example of cutting off our nose to spite our face.”

Many Democrats have decried past cuts as well as Brown’s proposal for more.

“The fundamental question is: Do we want to promote institutional care that costs $55,000 or more per person per year to operate? Or do we want to encourage home care that costs about $12,000 per person per year?” said state Sen. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, according to the union’s release. “Instead of cutting IHSS, we must figure out ways to move a portion of the 100,000 people currently in institutions into IHSS so we can really begin to save the state money.”

Meanwhile, a member of another union – SEIU United Long Term Care Workers – testified today before an Assembly Budget subcommittee about the hardships IHSS cuts would create. Cindy Valdez is a full-time provider to her partner, Jeff.

“If domestic services were cut I would no longer be able to afford to work as his full-time caregiver. I would have to look for a full-time job,” she said. “We would probably have to hire another caregiver to take care of Jeff, someone who doesn’t know him and would have a harder time anticipating his medical and emotional needs. We might even have to resort to placing him in an assisted living center, something that both he and I do not want for him.”

SEIU ULTCW President Laphonza Butler issued a release saying the state’s most vulnerable citizens can’t afford to lose these hours of care, and “for caregivers, these cuts mean fewer hours of work, possible loss of healthcare benefits, and the potential for job loss at a time when the state’s unemployment rates are already at historic highs.”