Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Californians fear for quality of life without decent pay for home health care providers

From KFSN-TV in Fresno, Calif.:

Fresno, Calif. -- A different health issue plaguing Fresno County isn't illness but the pay cut facing its in home health care providers on July 1st. And it had many of those workers packed into the Hall of Records for the Board of Supervisors meeting in late April. The subject was a pay cut and the employees like Lisa Brown came away empty handed.

She's a single mom and is the in home health care provider for her son Alexander who was born with Down's syndrome. Brown is paid 11 dollars and change an hour for just six hours a day. California reimburses Fresno County for the work she does with state funds. Lisa quit her job to stay home with her son 24 hours a day and said, "Lives depend on this service."

When she appeared before the Board on Tuesday she explained whey she chose, "I care for my son who's cognitively disabled. He has Down's syndrome." She added that. "It keeps Alexander at home and out of institutional care."

Brown was one of many voices asking the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to make up the state reduction of their hourly wages, arguing federal stimulus money will help pay for it. Reverend Samuel Thompson, himself an in home health care provider joined her, "So we have to take care of 'em and you all have the power and the ability to not cut the wages."

Reverend Thompson and Lisa Brown are like more than fifty percent of these workers. They are a family member taking care of a family member. The large group of these employees took turns asking the board to support their work helping keep the disabled, elderly and sick at home and out of far more expensive group home or
institutional care. Linda told Action News why this work is so valuable, "People's very lives are in the hands of these workers who maybe only paid for a couple of hours of care."

But with California facing serious budget problems, the state wanted Fresno County to accept cuts to the program by May 1st that will lower wages to ten dollars an hour. No one on the board liked their options.

Supervisor Henry Perea noted, "This is just a really difficult situation to be in. I think we could do better. I think we could do different."

Supervisor Judy Case agreed but didn't see how at this point, "As much as I and everybody else would like to provide something better, in this economy, everybody's tightening their belt."

A three to two vote ended the April 28 debate in Fresno County, which chose to accept the State's reduction in the hourly wage for it's in home health care providers on July 1st.

But these union workers say Federal Stimulus dollars can be used to change that plan and vow to keep the pressure on at the State Capitol.