Michael Just
Paul Wellman

As an In Home Supportive Services to remain in their own homes requires either semiskilled or skilled personal assistance. On the open job market, most semiskilled attendants, i.e., certified nurse’s aides (CNAs), commonly command an hourly wage that can range from $11 to $20 per hour; and skilled attendants, i.e., LVNs and RNs, can command anywhere from $20 to $45-plus per hour, making them much too expensive for IHSS recipients to hire.

Two years ago, in 2008, the hourly wage for my IHSS provider was $13, which was just around average for a CNA’s wage. Then, in 2009, due to the economic downturn and the subsequent budget cuts, the hourly wage was reduced to the current $10.10.

When the wage was $13, it was okay: People applied for work. When the huge $3-per-hour reduction was implemented, however, prospective providers decided they could not support themselves on this lowered wage, and they began seeking work in higher-paying hospitals or agencies. Hence, for me, finding qualified attendants became more difficult. Even finding a trainee has been trying since wages took a dip, putting my good health at risk, as I could not go for any length of time without proper medical attention.

Now, with the threat of even more cuts to the IHSS budget and provider wages, I feel a real dire future may be on hand concerning my ability to hire and retain qualified attendants. On May 1, 2010, the budget cuts called for an additional $2 per hour to be cut from IHSS provider’s wages, effective July 1, which would bring their hourly earnings to a mere $8 per hour; certainly subpar wages for even semiskilled labor.

I do not have the good fortune of available family members to assist me should I suddenly find myself without a personal attendant. California’s governor and legislature are creating a real health-care hazard with all of the new obstacles they are putting before IHSS providers and recipients. I do not want to end up in a nursing facility, which will severely limit my personal independence — and wind up costing the state’s taxpayers many additional thousands of dollars per year to pay my rent and medical costs!

In order for me to receive even basic medical care, never mind the necessary housekeeping needs, my prospective attendants need to attend an orientation, pay for their own background check, and get themselves fingerprinted, all at their own expense! Those are huge drawbacks, and now they’re going to have to accept $8 per hour and all of the associated inconveniences. I do not see how I can avoid a personal or medical catastrophe, nor avoid becoming an enormous fiscal burden upon the state. This budget “solution” is a lose-lose situation and needs a sound rethinking before we all end up in the poorhouse.


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