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Families Concerned By Possible IHSS Changes

Andrew Nixon
Capital Public Radio

California’s In-Home Supportive Services program allows the disabled to remain in their homes by paying for their caregivers. As Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, a proposal to modify the program is creating tension in the state budget process.

James and Judy Lee are caregivers to this son Justin, who was born with cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder. Because of the severity of his condition, his mom Judy became certified as an In-Home Supportive Services worker. This allows her to be paid while staying home and caring for Justin. Judy makes about $10 an hour and can be paid for 283 hours a month, the maximum allowed by the state. James says everyone benefits.

James Lee: “The cost of being in an institution would cost the state money, they have found a way to allocate a little bit of the money to the parents to help them off-set the costs they were incurring. And, over all it’s a win-win situation.”

But the situation may be changing.

H.D. Palmer is with Governor Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance.

Palmer: “It’s an issue of cost avoidance.”

He says new federal regulations would require IHSS workers to be paid overtime.

Palmer: “That has the potential to have some significant costs in the coming years.”

Brown’s administration says the change could add $600 million to the $5 billion program over the next two years. Brown proposes capping IHSS pay at 40 hours a week and setting up a system of back-up caregivers.

Legislative Democrats have resisted the plan and Palmer says the Governor is working with them.

The Lees say any cuts to Judy’s hours would be a huge financial hit. And they’re not alone. Last week thousands rallied at the Capitol in opposition to Brown’s plan.