Wednesday of last week I went down to a budget hearing for In-home Supportive Services (IHSS). This is the program that provides elderly and disabled people care in their homes and it’s currently facing a $623 million cut. The article following is one written by myself and another Outcast Shelby Munsch for the organization that we work with and that I went down to the capitol with here in Sonoma County that covers what happened at the hearing, however the most important thing you can do is contact the members of the budget subcommittee here (link goes to a list of each member and allows you to contact each of them) and Governor Jerry Brown here asking them to oppose the $623 million cut on IHSS. They will be meeting again, it used to be next Wednesday but is unknown at the moment, if you’re in Sonoma County and would like to come down with them next time, would like more information, or would like to volunteer with a wonderful organization that is working to make change in many ways for people in this county, please email me at email@example.com, it would be greatly appreciated.
(Another issue currently facing disabled people not just in the State but nationally is a bill that threatens the ADA, a law that forces businesses to provide ramps for wheelchairs and other things to make businesses accessible to disabled people. Please click this link to contact your representatives and tell them to stop this bill from setting us back even farther.)
Before public comment two panels of speakers presented. The first panel from the Department of Finance claimed that the $623 million dollars was not a “cut,” and that no recipient would see any difference in their care. However, every other speaker from people who would actually be harmed by the cut, both the public comment and panelists, gave a very different story about how much of a disaster it represented.
Matt Cate from the California State Association of Counties said all counties believe the CCI was good, helped people and saved money, and that they’re concerned with the $623 million shift, that it would be a devastating hit on counties which aren’t doing as well (Silicon Valley and Southern CA experienced growth, but the rest of the state did not and that it would be a devastating hit on counties which aren’t doing as well (Silicon Valley and Southern CA experienced growth, but the rest of the state did not). Program growth, from more people needing IHSS, would cause the costs to as much as triple. The counties are not prepared to handle the program cost growth. As a final note, he also said the unions should bargain with the state as a whole rather than with each county.
Other panelists, including Frank Mecca, the Executive Director of the County Welfare Directors Association and Karen Keeslar of the California Association of Public Authorities spoke out about how the cut would not only adversely affect IHSS but also other vital county programs like child welfare and mental health. Tia Orr, the Government Relations Director with SEIU, stated that “the government’s actions will cause holes in our system we’ll never be able to overcome.”
When public comment came multiple speakers from the organization I went with spoke about how the program affected them and also mentioned how if the state can manage to give $48 million in tax breaks a year and give Lockheed Martin and Disney a total combined amount of $696 million in subsidies, they can probably handle the $623 million to support the elderly and disabled people in this state. Personally, the choice between supporting the disabled or Disney is an easy one, but apparently to some it’s complex.
I personally spoke as a disability activist telling them that, “The situation for disabled people in the United States is incredibly bleak, not only with the Affordable Care Act that many disabled people, including many of my friends, rely on to survive under threat but also with Sessions and DeVos both being against the IDEA, the law which provides us our accommodations in school. While you can’t do anything to change that on the national level, what you can do to help disabled people is to oppose this cut that affects the lives of many disabled people in the state.”
In addition to our representatives, a range of members from other organizations spoke. Representatives from almost every county spoke against being forced to come up with the funding. A representative from Congress of California, Senios, said that bankrupting the counties would be shortsighted. Multiple representatives from unions called for the collective bargaining program to be expanded statewide, instead of being entirely removed. Several IHSS workers and recipients also spoke about how important the program has been to their lives.
After all speeches from the public, the panelists got up to speak again, and the Assembly members questioned them. They asked about the Department of Finance’s plan for handling the negative effect on the counties. The Department of Finance director reinforced that this “is not a cut,” and that they’re “willing to work with counties to mitigate the costs.” He said, “The boards have basically had a half billion dollars of ‘good times’” to which many audience members scoffed. Assembly member Blanca E. Rubio (D from Baldwin Park) asked how they would do this, and if they had times scheduled to meet with the county representatives. He said they would be coordinating with them soon. She criticized him multiple times for not answering the questions in an upfront way, and emphasized that they’re dealing with real people’s’ lives. The other guy said, “Right now, there’s no potential solution from the administration.” She thanked him for at least being honest.
Devon J. Mathis, a Republican from Visalia, said the counties should be “entitled to another two weeks to mull it over,” and “that they should be able to know that their families are taken care of without fear.”
Joaquin Arambula, the chair of the committee, said, “I agree with all of the testimony given today. I find it unconscionable to cut the whole safety net. There are many hard working IHSS workers helping our communities. I thank you for coming and adding your testimony. We are in troubling times in the government today…We are going to have many hurdles to take… I have concerns, which is why our staff has done so much work on this…” He said he couldn’t call a vote because they didn’t have enough committee members and they would reconvene to vote on this topic on March 22nd (since has been changed to some future date unknown at this time). He asked us (i.e. the audience) to come back at that time.