Santa Cruz Good Times

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Aug 23rd
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Supervisor Ellen Pirie

ellen_pirie2in-home care workers are facing a wage reduction from $11.50 to $8.50 an hour. How Does The county play into this?

In-Home Support Services (IHSS) is a state program that pays people to provide basic in-home services to disabled people. The goal is to allow the disabled person to stay in their home even when they are unable to completely take care of themselves, instead of having to go into a nursing home or other institutional setting.

The people providing the services are called “chore workers” or “care providers.” Although they are not county employees, their wages are paid by a combination of state, federal and county funds. Typical services are preparing food, shopping, and helping with bathing and housekeeping.

Sometimes the care provider is a relative of the recipient and sometimes not.

The county is not considering reducing the amount of county money contributed to the care providers' wages. However, the county had used federal stimulus funds to supplement the care provider wages for the last two years. The federal stimulus funds are now ending and the loss of those funds will also cause a reduction in the state portion of the wages. The county is being asked to increase its portion of the wages by $.79 per hour, for a total new expenditure of $2.2 million per year. No one wants to see chore worker wages reduced from $11.50 to $8.50 per hour. Yet it is also clear that the county does not have the $2.2 million that is needed to make up the loss of federal funds. The county is working with SEIU, the union that represents both the chore workers and most county employees, in hopes of finding a solution.

What do you expect 2011 to bring

to local government?

All of us would like to believe that the coming New Year will be better than 2010, and I’m no exception. In spite of my desire to be optimistic, it seems likely that 2011 will be an extremely difficult year for local governments.

The hard economic times we are experiencing show few signs for letting up. And those few signs that the economy is improving are offset by signs that that it is not. The furlough (unpaid time off) for county employees continues and I expect that we will have to maintain that through all of 2011. The county is looking at a multi-million dollar shortfall in the 2011-2012 fiscal year and the staff reductions we have made over the last couple of years have left us with bare bones operations in many departments.

Of even greater concern is the state’s financial situation and its impact on local governments. The county and the local cities receive state funds to operate or supplement many of our services (law enforcement, fire protection, services for children, road repair, etc.). Unless California voters enact a new tax to help dig the state out of its financial hole, the future looks very bleak for both local governments and the state. I’m afraid that we will be ending services that most people expect and depend on. The cuts to basic services that Governor Jerry Brown will need to make to get the state back on track are extremely unwise. Many more people will be out of work and the public will be aghast at the lack of public service. There are even questions about whether the state can both balance its budget and meet its legal and constitutional obligations on the current level of revenue.

I believe that Governor-elect Brown is committed to correcting the state’s financial situation, but I also believe it will be more difficult than most of us are ready to accept.

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