State Says IHSS Court Order Kept Counties in Dark

There are three levels of exemption for some Californians from the 20% trigger cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, according to officials from the Department of Social Services.

Counties, which administer IHSS programs through county welfare departments, haven’t heard about any of these exemptions because a federal temporary restraining order halted the implementation of those cuts, according to Michael Weston of DSS.

Basically, he said, implementation of changes and communication about IHSS with the counties halted when the court issued its temporary restraining order. Meanwhile, the exemption process continued to be developed within the department, Weston said.

“The instructions to the counties were put on hold when the temporary restraining order was issued,” Weston said. “Any other communication with the counties before that is just an initial part of the process.”

So what county IHSS workers don’t know, he said, is that roughly 66,000 beneficiaries will be exempted from IHSS cuts right off the bat, he said — that’s about 15% of the 400,000 who receive the benefit.

The second set of people will be those who could be pre-approved by county social workers.

“The pre-approval process is for people with the most severe needs,” Weston said. “The idea is, we’re just putting them through without application. These are the people who are at serious risk of out-of-home placement, so we want to make sure they’re not going to be at risk for out-of-home placement.”

There is no estimate on how many people that might be, Weston said.

The third group who might receive an exemption to IHSS cuts are people who apply for a restoration of benefits, based on need.

According to Melinda Bird of Disability Rights California, which brought the lawsuit challenging the cuts, a total of about 240,000 beneficiaries could be exempted by pre-approval, or be eligible to file for restoration of benefits.

That restoration process could create two problems, Bird said — it would mean a loss of benefits for an estimated 60,000 people who would fail to fill out the form, and it would mean that county workers could conceivably be swamped by processing the remaining 180,000 restoration-of-benefit forms.

“Counties won’t be able to do that on time and I think, with that many forms, there will be mistakes. Many mistakes. And it would be phenomenally expensive for the state,” Bird said.

The lawsuit challenging IHSS cuts is scheduled to be heard in court Jan. 19. Only after that will the state be able to communicate any direction to the counties, Weston said.

“I can say, the process was put on hold in terms of implementation, but not internally, within the department,” Weston said. “There was nothing about that conveyed to the counties, because there were never any final instructions sent to the counties. But I can’t speculate on when those instructions will go out. That depends on the lawsuit.”

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