Brown's Overtime Prohibition for IHSS Workers

Governor Jerry Brown attempts prohibition of overtime for IHSS workers

The following story was reported by Capital & Main and Los Angeles Times.

A change in federal rules set for next year entitles nearly 2 million home aides nationwide to overtime pay. But Brown, in an effort to keep a lid on costs, has proposed a cap on the time they work in the state's taxpayer-funded home care program for low-income Californians.

On January 9, Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his proposed $155-billion budget for 2014-2015 at a press conference in Sacramento. Under the governor’s budget, Vidales and hundreds of thousands of other home health care workers would be prohibited from working more than eight hours a day, or 40 hours a week. Now, suddenly, the state’s home health care workers are not only facing the possibility of not receiving overtime, but of also losing the extra hours they’ve been accustomed to working.

The overtime prohibition would cover all IHSS caregivers. The IHSS program, which has operated for nearly four decades, is designed to allow seniors and people with disabilities to live in their homes rather than in more expensive institutions – whose per-patient costs typically run five times as much as in-home care. Under the program, about 360,000 home health care workers provide care to roughly 450,000 people as part of California’s Medi-Cal program. It is five times larger than the next largest program operated by any other state.

Brown’s provision is intended to save California from paying the overtime required under the new federal regulations. But home health care workers say the overtime prohibition would have a devastating impact on their incomes, and advocates for seniors and the disabled claim that care would be disrupted for some of the state’s most vulnerable people. The ensuing conflict between federal generosity and the pressures of a state budget have set in motion a classic example of good intentions producing unintended consequences.

Public outcries over changes in social services were common during California's budget crises, and activists hoped those would be a thing of the past as state finances rebounded. Brown has already agreed to restore some funding to welfare and healthcare programs.
But he does not want to commit to paying overtime for home aides, said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the governor's Department of Finance.

Overtime could increase the annual cost of the $2-billion home aide program by $426 million, according to administration figures. Instead of allocating for the extra pay, Brown would reserve $153.9 million for a "backup system" that would help pair aides with those who need them when their primary caregivers use up their hours.

Brown will spend the next several months negotiating a final spending plan with lawmakers.

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) expressed skepticism about Brown's proposal, saying in a statement that he's "very concerned about impairing the quality of care" and "maintaining fairness for workers who provide that care."

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