No Care for the Disabled and Sick
Governor’s plan would axe services to local home-care workers and the people they help.
Thursday, February 19, 2004
Next week some 50 local seniors, people who use wheelchairs, and home health-care workers will travel to San Francisco to protest Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s planned cuts to in-home services.
The event will happen on Feb.26, to mark Schwarzenegger’s 100th day in office.
On the chopping block is the In-Home Support Services Program, a state- and federally-funded program that pays private workers or relatives to care for disabled and elderly people at home. According to Rebecca Martinez, a field rep for Service Employees International Union Local 817, the governor’s proposed cuts would hurt more than 2,500 union employees in Monterey County, as well as the sick or disabled clients they care for.
The governor’s plan would cut home-care workers’ pay from its current rate of $9.50 per hour down to minimum wage—$6.75 per hour. It would also eliminate funding to provide pay increases and health care to employees, and would cut 75,000 clients from the In-Home Support Services Residual program. These are people whose care is provided for by family members—spouses caring for spouses, parents caring for children with disabilities and grown children caring for sick and elderly parents.
“And it’s a growing population,” Martinez says. “Our numbers of patients always increase. People get sick, or family members get older and require in-home care.”
Lilia Garcia and her mother Maria Garcia, a home-care worker, were among those left in the dark until a couple of weeks ago.
Maria Garcia, who lives in King City, cares for an elderly woman every day. Garcia helps the woman get out of bed and bathe. She also cooks and cleans for her, and helps out with grocery shopping.
Recently, Lilia Garcia become a vocal volunteer for saving home-care funding and services. Lilia says both she and her mother will be on the bus to attend the rally in San Francisco next Thursday.
“If they cut the program, it’s going to affect everybody,” Lilia says. “It’s hard to find a job here in King City. If they cut the budget, my mom would basically be unemployed. The workers can’t go to $6.75. They can’t live on that. But the patients need their help. They can’t help themselves.”
Lilia Garcia says her neighbor, who’s 97 years old, also relies on in-home care from her daughter. And the daughter relies on the state-funded program to pay her a livable wage.
“There are a lot of worried people around here,” Garcia says.
The Feb. 26 rally won’t be the first one attended by a Monterey County contingent.
Martinez says union workers attended two protests in Sacramento last month, and in March, she says, they’ll start lobbying Monterey County’s two Assemblymen, Simon Salinas and John Laird, as well as state Senator Bruce McPherson.
She says the union has also encouraged home-care workers and clients to call Schwarzenegger’s office and write letters, telling the governor that his cuts are hurting the sick and elderly.
“People are really upset about this,” Martinez says. “I’ve heard a lot of people say they put him [Schwarzenegger] in office. They voted for him. And if they would have known that this would happen, they say they would have thought twice.”