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KXJZ Capitol Public Radio News

October 1, 2009


Multiple budget cuts for seniors


California cut billions of dollars from human service programs in the last year. But advocates Thursday announced they’ll challenge some of the reductions in court. And UCLA researchers have tallied up the impact of multiple cuts on seniors

By Kelley Weiss

The federal lawsuit is to block the state’s cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, or IHSS. Melinda Bird is an attorney with Disability Rights California and worked on the suit. She says the service cuts will affect about a quarter of all IHSS recipients, about 130,000 disabled Californians. She says that’s in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Sixty percent of those on IHSS are seniors for whom the program provides independence, dignity and the ability to live their lives in familiar surroundings rather than in a nursing home or hospital.”

Bird says the suit calls for the court to stop the cuts before they begin on November 1st.

The associate director of UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research, Steven Wallace, says this isn’t the only cut for the elderly. He was the co-author of a new study analyzing the impact of the budget deal on disabled, low-income seniors. Starting this month they’ll see reductions in their disability checks. And, they’ll have fewer resources for Alzheimer’s care.

“As many as a half of a million will be affected in some way and tens of thousands will be affected by the death by a thousand cuts. So they’ll have multiple challenges that they’ll have to adjust to, both the declining ability to care for themselves and declining resources to help them do so.”

Wallace says as a result many disabled seniors will need unnecessary emergency care. Or he says they’ll end up in nursing homes that will cost the state even more money.

The California Department of Finance says the IHSS cuts disputed in the lawsuit will save the state more than $80 million  this fiscal year. And this helped Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature close the state’s multi-billion dollar budget gap. The Schwarzenegger Administration is not commenting on the merits of the lawsuit.