Home care advocates mourn cuts to seniors, disabled

Following Gov. Brown’s announcement that automatic budget cuts will go forward — including a 20 percent across-the-board cut to In-Home Supportive Services — home care advocates and elected officials held a candlelight vigil in San Jose, Dec. 15, to mourn the loss of vital services to seniors and people with disabilities.

During the vigil, home care providers and consumers said they will be devastated by the looming cuts to IHSS services.

“I try to provide the best care for my client, but how will we afford the rent, health care and food with a 20 percent reduction?” said Stella Martinez, an IHSS worker who provides 24/7 care to a client who lives with schizophrenia, hallucinations and depression. “How will she receive the care that she needs?”

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Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge issued a Temporary Restraining Order to halt the 20 percent reduction in IHSS hours until a hearing can be held on this issue. But that only postpones the cuts for now.

For IHSS workers and consumers, that’s not enough.

“With the state cuts, I will lose my health insurance,” said Brunilda Rocha, who provides IHSS services for her 82-year-old mother. “It will be very difficult to survive. Health care and medicine will be too expensive. And seniors will go to convalescent homes where they will not receive proper care.”

The 20 percent reduction in IHSS hours for seniors and people with disabilities comes on top of a previous 3.6 percent reduction that went into effect earlier this year.

Speakers at the candlelight vigil also voiced that more revenues are needed to provide IHSS services, and that everyone – including corporations – should pay their fair share.

“CEO’s and corporations got their big bonuses,” said Rosalie Ramirez, an IHSS worker who provides care for her son. “We got nil. Nothing. This is an outrage. And now they want to cut our services when we have so little left. Corporations and the wealthy must pay their fair share like the rest of us.”

In addition to home care advocates, the vigil was also attended and supported by Assemblyman Paul Fong, and representatives of Assembly members Jim Beall and Jerry Hill.

Statewide, approximately 440,000 seniors and people with disabilities rely on IHSS for help with nutrition; taking medication; bathing; bowel and bladder care; and other tasks necessary for living.

The average IHSS consumer receives about 86 hours of care a month and will lose about 23 hours as a result of this cut. Approximately 250,000 seniors and people with disabilities are expected to be hit with the full 20 percent cut to service hours.

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