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Spending More for Less Freedom - Uncommon Government Ineptitude

  • Published: 2009-09-23 (Revised/Updated 2016-01-07) : Author: Thomas C. Weiss : Contact: Disabled World
  • Synopsis: An editorial concerning IHSS cutbacks on independent living services in California beginning November first 2009.

Main Document

Los Angeles County has announced that they will cut nearly forty-thousand People with Disabilities and Seniors from Home Care Service hours because of the state's budget, something that has the potential to affect not only the people involved themselves, but thirty-thousand care providers as well.

Disability advocates are encouraging home care recipients to appeal these cuts to services to ensure that their safety and independence are not jeopardized. Officials from the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), at the September meeting of the Los Angeles County Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC), announced that this massive group of people, who depend on these services to remain in their homes and for their very independence, will be cut, losing all or some of their care hours because of State budget cuts. The thirty-thousand care providers who work providing care for them face difficult struggles to make ends meet already; they will face even greater hardships than they already do because of these cuts, right along with the people who will lose their independence.

Simon Golledge, Executive Director of the PASC stated, "These cuts are devastating. The lives of 70,000 Los Angeles County residents will soon be placed in jeopardy. For 40,000 IHSS recipients, who represent some of our most fragile residents, they lose essential care services needed to remain safely in their homes. For the 30,000 care providers who deliver this care and struggle to make ends meet, they face an even greater financial hardship than they already do today."

The state of California is administering cuts through the IHSS based on a, 'Functional Index (FI),' with a scale of 1 to 5. The scale is absolutely brutal. A, '5' represents a person; someone who is in the most extreme need of assistance. According to DPSS figures (funny how people suddenly became numbers) about 8, 400 County IHSS recipients will lose all of their IHSS services because they have an overall score that falls below 2. Thirty-thousand more people will lose their essential domestic service hours because tasks fall below a score of four. Don't you wish we could score politicians on this scale

Laphonza Butler, Co. Trustee the United Long Term Care Workers Union stated, 'Simply put, cutting the IHSS program is short-sighted and places the lives of our parents, grandparents and children with disabilities in danger. In addition to endangering lives, these cuts end up costing, not saving, taxpayers money since they force people who lose their home care to turn to costly emergency rooms and institutions in order to survive." Well put, Laphonza! What we are witnessing is a wholesale effort by the State of California, through the efforts of Governor Swartzenegger, to push people with disabilities and seniors into institutions using money as an excuse.

The cuts to the IHSS have been pushed back to November first from September first because the California Department of Social Services has to send a Notice of Action to everyone who will be affected. In an effort to make sure that everyone affected knows their rights, disability advocates like Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (CALIF) are spreading the word that IHSS recipients whose care hours and services are being cut do indeed have the right to appeal. They are raising awareness of the fact that by filing an appeal as quickly as possible, they may be able to retain their current hours until their appeal is heard. Lillibeth Navarro, Executive Director of CALIF said, 'It's imperative that any IHSS recipient who receives a Notice of Action understands that they have the right to appeal cuts to their hours. If they call the toll-free number on the back of their Notice of Action before the cuts are put into place and request 'aid paid pending,' their service hours should remain intact until the hearing takes place.'

The perception that it is somehow, 'OK,' to place these cuts to services on people with disabilities, seniors, and children with disabilities is horrendous. The IHSS serves 445,000 seniors and people with disabilities throughout the state of California. The services provided cover tasks that include independence-creating ones such as feeding, bathing, meal preparation, personal care, and getting to doctors' appointments. Each year the IHSS program saves taxpaying citizens in California millions of dollars - it is an average of four times less expensive than alternative care options such as institutional, ie. Nursing Home care.

Los Angeles County is not the only place in California to be affected by these cuts, approved by Governor Arnold Swarzenegger. Marnin residents, one-thousand six-hundred of them, will be affected by these cuts as well. Two-hundred and fifty people face losing their services, while another two or three hundred people with disabilities and seniors could find their services reduced. The Marin Center for Independent Living is prepared to connect people to organizations like Disability Rights California, who can help them appeal.

In the meantime, there is still no good news regarding the COLA for 2010, meaning that the people in California who are going to be affected by these massive cuts to the very services that keep them living independently who will search for ways to stay living independently will not receive even the most minor of financial boosts to help them do so. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that inflation for August 2009 posted just a 0.2% increase, leaving the inflation rate for the fiscal year at -0.2%. What this means is no cost-of-living increase for either Social Security recipients or Veterans who receive VA disability compensation.

"If the Governor is truly listening to the voice of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, he'll stop attacking seniors and people with disabilities and do whatever is necessary to reverse the drastic and dangerous cuts he's made to the State's home care program," said Hugh Hallenberg, long time disability advocate. "If he doesn't, it's obvious that this was nothing more than a press stunt."

"Yes, Governor, you are correct. Your mother-in-law did fight so that people could live independently," said Lillibeth Navarro, Executive Director of Communities Actively Living Independent and Free. "So how would she feel about you honoring her fight in one breath and at the same time cutting the vital services that allow seniors and people with disabilities to live independently"

Comment:

While I thought Thomas Weiss's editorial: "Spending More for Less Freedom - Uncommon Government Ineptitude" was on target, it seriously understated the problem. This is a statewide issue--nearly 100,000 low income elderly, blind and disabled Californians will lose some or all of their home care effective Nov. 1. Thousands of home care providers who earn little more than minimum wage will lose their jobs. Furthermore, home care clients and providers will now be required to be fingerprinted and providers will have to undergo--and pay for--criminal background checks. Sadly, the continued attacks on IHSS by Gov. Schwarzenegger and his right-wing ideologues were enabled by many Democrats in the legislature.

Steve Mehlman
Communications Director
UDW Home-care Providers Union


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