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California Budget Hits Aged and Disabled with Severe Cuts

As most are aware, the California legislature passed and the Governor signed a state budget aimed at closing a $42 billion deficit. A combination of tax increases, budget cuts and borrowing is expected – at least for the short term – to allow California to pay its bills. Unfortunately, California’s low–income residents, including the aged and disabled, will bear the brunt of approximately $1.6 billion of these cuts. Cuts to the aged and disabled include:

Suspension of SSI/SSP COLAs: The maximum monthly SSI grant for 2009 was increased to $907 for individuals and $1,579 for couples. However, effective May 1, 2009, the SSP portion of these grants will be reduced by the amount of the COLA, leaving the SSI/SSP grant at the 2008 levels of $870 for individuals and $1,524 for couples. The June 2010 COLA will also be suspended, leaving the grant levels unchanged for the next two years at the $870 and $1,524 rates.

Regional Centers are funded by the Department of Developmental Services to coordinate access to services available to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Effective February 1, 2009, there will be a 3% payment reduction to service providers and another 3% reduction in funding for regional center operations costs. Another $100 million in cuts are scheduled for the 2009–10 fiscal year.

Trigger Cuts: According to the Health and Human Services Agency, approximately $676 million in proposed cuts will be restored if the Treasurer and Director of Finance believe that by April 1, 2009, there will be sufficient funding from the federal stimulus package to offset some of the reductions. Otherwise, the following cuts will be implemented on July 1, 2009:

  • Elimination of Optional Medi–Cal benefits for Adults: For adults aged 21 or older who are not in a nursing home, the following optional services will be eliminated: acupuncture services, adult dental, chiropractic service, incontinence creams and washes, optician/optical laboratory services, optometry services, podiatry services, psychology services and speech and audiology services.
  • 10% reduction in Public Hospital Reimbursement Rates.
  • 4% reduction in CalWORKs grants, reducing the maximum payment from $723 to $694/month.
  • Another 2.3% reduction in SSI/SSP grants (on top of the COLA reduction from 2008–09).
  • Reduction in state contribution to In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) provider wages and benefits, limiting the state’s contribution to $9.50/hour, plus $0.60 per hour in benefits.
  • Eliminate the IHSS Share of Cost Buy Out program for new recipients.

These cuts are penny wise and pound foolish, as the elimination of necessary medical services, IHSS services and income for the poorest of the poor will only increase the need for costly institutional care.

If you want more information on how you can make your voice heard in protesting these cuts, contact the CANHR office.