Home Care Providers, Recipients Make Push To Be Included in Budget Deals

Home health care workers yesterday rallied at the capitol building, trying to sway legislators and the governor to include their concerns in pending budget decisions.

In particular, home care workers and recipients want allotted hours to return to pre-cut levels for In-Home Supportive Services and to stop implementation of a cap on overtime hours.

“Those are the two big budget acts for this year,” said Kristina Bas Hamilton, director of budget and policy for the United Domestic Workers union. Last year, the Legislature instituted an 8% cut in IHSS hours, she said.

“This year, 1% of that cut is automatically restored in July, per the terms of a lawsuit settlement,” Bas Hamilton said. “We’re asking for the additional 7% to be restored, as well.”

Outside the capitol building yesterday, a half-dozen legislators addressed advocates and supporters. Inside the building, caregivers and receivers of home health care left messages on the walls outside the governor’s office.

The governor’s January proposal to cap hours at 40 per week — meaning no overtime hours or pay for home health care workers — was rejected by budget subcommittees in both the Assembly and Senate.

That’s a big problem for the people receiving care at home, said Assembly member Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who also spoke at yesterday’s rally.

“I’m not sure how much money you’re actually going to save by not having overtime hours,” Pan said. “Part of the time you’ll be paying two people at the same time. There’s the overlap of travel time, there’s the overlap of the sign-out.”

For the limited amount of savings, Pan said, the cost to IHSS recipients is too high. 

“Overall, I’m concerned about the quality of care,” Pan said. “These are people doing personal activities sometimes, they’re helping bathe people, and feed them sometimes.” And some of the people receiving care have cognitive issues and intense problems with changes and with new faces.

“These are people who have built relationships,” Pan said. “They’re not interchangeable units.”

The estimated cost of maintaining an overtime fund is about $66 million in general fund costs, Bas Hamilton said. Restoring the 7% cut in IHSS hours is estimated at $140 million in general fund dollars. Both costs would be matched with equal shares of federal money.

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