Schwarzenegger Administration Withdraws Support for Some Funding Cuts to Home Care Programs
As expected, officials in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration "abruptly abandoned" a proposal in the governor's fiscal year 2004-2005 budget that would have eliminated funding for a program providing home care workers for low-income residents, the Los Angeles Times reports. The announcement came during a Thursday Senate budget hearing to consider the proposed funding cuts (Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 4/23). The abandoned proposal would have reduced by one-third funding for In-Home Supportive Services, a program that uses federal, state and county money to subsidize salaries of home care workers for low-income residents who would otherwise need to live in nursing homes. The funding cut would have affected an IHSS program that pays for home care for 75,000 people but does not receive federal funds (California Healthline, 4/22). People covered by the program include those who receive care from a family member, need assistance with domestic tasks or receive protective supervision, according to the Sacramento Bee (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/23). The legislative analyst estimated that 27,000 program beneficiaries would have lost all benefits if the funding cuts had been approved (California Healthline, 4/22). Officials said that they will ask the federal government to provide funding for the program (Los Angeles Times, 4/23). Cheryl Stewart, an analyst for the Department of Finance, said that the administration had received "positive signals that its request ... will be granted," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/23). The administration still plans to reduce the minimum hourly wage rate for home care workers from $9.50 per hour -- the state-subsidized wage -- to $6.75 per hour and reduce annual program costs by $95 million by repealing a 1999 state law that requires counties to establish centralized authorities for home care (California Healthline, 4/22).
According to the Times, Schwarzenegger's announcement "mark[s] the second time in five months that [he] has backed off a controversial budget cut aimed at the disabled." In December, the governor agreed to retain a number of services for people with developmental disabilities (Los Angeles Times, 4/23). Sen. Wes Chesbro (D-Santa Rosa), who chaired the budget panel hearing, said, "I'm very appreciative that in this and other instances we've seen the governor ... move off his position." However, he added, "This was a half-baked and not well-thought-out proposal. ... It's a good thing we didn't act on these things when the governor was pressing us to in December" (Sacramento Bee, 4/23). Sen. Tom McClintock (R-Thousand Oaks) said, "We fantasize about money that never materializes, and then we end up short" (Marimow, San Jose Mercury News, 4/23). While Assembly speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) issued a statement that "prais[ed] the home care decision," he said he was "still bothered by other proposals that would have a negative effect on the elderly and disabled," the Bee reports (Sacramento Bee, 4/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.