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Disability Case Takes Unusual Turn

A federal judge temporarily halted automatic “trigger cuts” to the state’s budget that would reduce In-Home Supportive Services by 20%. A hearing on the issue, originally scheduled this month, is now scheduled Jan. 19.

In the meantime, a state declaration filed in the case said 66,000 Californians would be exempt from the cuts — including all children younger than age 21.

“In total, approximately 66,000 IHSS recipients will be completely exempt from the 20% reduction, which is roughly 15% of all IHSS recipients,” according to a declaration by Eileen Carroll, deputy director of the Adult Programs Division at the Department of Social Services.

That’s a significant development in the state’s stance on IHSS cuts, according to attorney Melinda Bird of Disability Rights California, which brought the lawsuit.

“The state filed a brief that made some surprising concessions,” Bird said. “Like not cutting kids’ benefits, that’s one of them. That was remarkable, because that was not in the directive to counties.”

There are about 400,000 Californians receiving IHSS services, including about 27,000 children under 21, according to Bird. Those younger beneficiaries would be exempted from cuts in part because many of them are already on federal waiver programs, Carroll wrote.

DSS officials declined comment Tuesday, saying the state has a policy against discussing pending litigation.

The bigger news to Bird was the state assertion that county social workers had some say in restoring IHSS hours to recipients who showed significant need.

“For us, this is wonderful news,” Bird said. “For county social workers to have full discretion to restore hours, that’s flatly inconsistent with the written instructions they sent to counties.”

In fact, Bird said, if that declaration is actually state policy, the counties don’t know about it.

“It’s a secret,” Bird said. “There’s not a single county official we could find who’s aware of this.”

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