By Connie Boyar (with thanks to background information from CDCAN Marty Omoto and the Arc of California)
By June 2019, people on SSI/SSP (or just SSP) will be eligible for food stamps (called “CalFresh”). How food stamp program will be implemented still needs to be worked out.
COST OF LIVING ADJUSTMENT
There will be cost of living adjustments for the state portion COLA (SSP) of the SSI/SSP grants and also for CalWORKS grants, but not until the 2022-2023 State budget year, but only if money is put into the budget that year to fund it (and in every budget that follows, to fund a cost of living adjustment, meaning it is not automatic).
Connie’s comments: So our extremely low income disabled on SSI/SSP generally receiving approximately $900/month to live on have to wait three years before they get a cost of living adjustment and only if the state agrees to put money into the budget…? Why…? California has the fifth largest economy in the world. Hopefully with a new governor things will change and legislators will stop just giving us lip service. Both legislators and the governor need to be held accountable for the grossly underfunded DD system.
14 DAY STATEWIDE UNIFORM HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
The 14-Day Statewide Uniform Holiday Schedule will NOT be reinstated on July 1, 2018 as proposed by the Governor, BUT INSTEAD reinstatement is delayed for one year. The Uniform Holiday Schedule – really furlough days and a reduction to the DD budget– is an old law still on the books written in 2009 in response to the significant state budget deficit then. The state enacted a policy that regional centers will not pay service providers (e.g. day programs, transportation, work activity programs, early intervention services) for 14 holidays per year instead of the typical 10 days. However that policy was rescinded over the past few years. Now, this current action mandates that regional centers increase the unpaid holiday days again from 10 to 14. This reinstatement will go into effect again in one year.
Connie’s comments: This is good news for this year but bad news for next! This is essentially a budget cut to developmental disability budget but just delayed a year, since it gives back to the state general fund approximately $19.5 million (according to the California Department of Finance). Most providers do not provide services on holiday days, and if they do, they go uncompensated). The Arc of California states it implements a reduction in services, creates significant cost burdens on all parties, forces furlough days or use of vacation days for hourly staff, creates loss of personal income to clients that work, creates disruption for families, increases spending on respite care in lieu of day services, and ultimately creates another unfunded mandate for service providers.
Example: For those attending day programs who may reside in group homes or in SLS, clients will have four fewer days at the day program, and extra staffing will have to be done by group homes and SLS homes with no compensation to the SLS or group home management to pay for staffing. For clients at home, this means more days the parents may have to take off work. Given the State of California’s $6.1 billion dollar surplus, why are these cuts again being proposed? Something to start advocating for now for the next budget year.
SOCIAL RECREATION AND CAMP FUNDING for the 2018-2019 BUDGET DID NOT PASS
Connie’s comments: This item to restore camp and social recreation originally passed in both the Assembly and Senate in May. But at the last minute the item was sent to the conference committee where it was not passed. What happened to our legislators? Where is the will to stand up to the Brown administration even when a budget item is passed in both houses?
This is essentially a cut to provider reimbursement rates. It will be implemented for a loss of $1.4 million.
Strengthening protections for individuals placed in Institutes for Mental Disease at the cost of $339,000 was not approved to be in the state budget.
NO SAFETY NET BOOST
The $5.6 million in one-time funding and the budget trailer bill safety net language will not be part of the 2018-2019 State Budget the Legislature sends to the Governor.
Disability Rights California and many advocates are concerned about the inadequacy of crisis services, the delay in implementing crisis services statewide and the capacity of crisis homes currently available. Although a safety net plan has been adopted, there are grave concerns about delay in implementation and need for more resources.
Connie’s Comments: There is a severe shortage of crisis homes. Some of our children with autism have suffered in inappropriate, extremely expensive acute care hospitals where their needs are not met because of this. This rejection of $5.6 million in one time funding is penny wise and pound foolish not to mention a potential violation of the Olmstead Act
BRIDGE FUNDING CUT TO $25M
The proposed $50 million in one-time bridge funding was cut in half to $25 million. One of the issues it intended to address was the difficulty in finding caregivers for the disabled in high cost of living areas such as the San Francisco Bay Area . Currently, about 20 cities and counties have minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum wage. Two cities in the Silicon Valley already have a $15 dollar minimum wage and San Francisco will reach this level in July. Providers in geographic high cost of living areas with a local minimum wage that is higher than the state minimum wage appear to be more adversely affected by the statutory policy on rate adjustments for state minimum wage increases than likely was intended.
CDCAN Comment: This funding is one-time and covers two years – 2018 through 2020 but the details on who would be eligible for this funding, the requirements and process to apply, will need to be included in the budget bill language.
Connie’s Comments: The SF Bay area providers (e.g. group homes, SLS, ILS, nurses, day programs, etc, are having extreme difficulty in finding appropriate direct service providers due to the high cost of living. Many work 2 and 3 jobs to make ends meet. The state median rate currently being utilized is unrealistic and illogical in meeting the needs of the disabled. There are no guarantees that what the rate setting committee will propose in March 2019 will quickly fix the problem. More ongoing organized advocacy needed.
BEST BUDDIES $1.5 MILLION APPROVED
The conference committee voted 9-0 to approve $1.5 million in one-time State General Funding for the Best Buddies program which means that this $1.5 million request will be sent on to the governor for his signature.
Connie’s Comment: Why was this specific program singled out to receive funding? Political favors? Or because it was not very much money and would make legislatures look like they were doing something for our community? Certainly they are, but INMHO not enough. Although this can be a very valuable program for a few, it must be properly administered by the teacher in charge to be effective, based on personal experience.
EMPLOYMENT: BREAKING BARRIERS IN EMPLOYMENT FOR ADULTS WITH AUTISM
$1.5 million for a three-year pilot of “Breaking Barriers” will be part of the 2018-2019 State Budget that the Legislature sends to the Governor. This bill would create a three-year pilot program in the counties of Sacramento and Los Angeles for the purposes of increasing long-term employment opportunities for young adults with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities. The bill would provide that the pilot program be administered by the California Workforce Development Board and accomplish specified goals.
ELECTRONIC VISIT VERIFICATION
There is currently no deadline to implement this although legislators did state that it ““shall be developed and implemented in a manner and timeframe that avoids the payment of the federal financial participation penalties.” The language includes many protections for people receiving IHSS and their workers. It includes restrictions on how EVV is to be implemented, including that it cannot infringe on people’s rights protected by the 1999 US Supreme Court Olmstead Decision under the Americans with Disabilities Act; it shall not use GPS; and “shall be developed through a collaborative stakeholder process, and be as minimally burdensome to providers and consumers as is necessary” to comply with the new federal EVV requirement.
IHSS COUNTY ADMINISTRATION
The Conference Committee approved a “compromise” that augmented (increased funding) in the 2018-2019 State budget year with a one-time State General Fund above what the Governor proposed in his 2018-2019 State Budget as revised in May: for the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, $15.4 million in State General Funds to partially fund a shortfall in IHSS county administration.
Connie’s Comments: IHSS hours by trailer bill language law must be used first before regional center funding is utilized for SLS services. IHSS pay is so low (often below local city mandated minimum wage) that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find appropriately skilled IHSS workers for the disabled and seniors. The situation will only get worse as boomers age up and need workers to care for their children. Caregivers can make more money almost anywhere else in a less stressful demanding job (fast food, etc) then through IHSS. Private paid caregivers are and will continue to receive higher pay. The IHSS system needs to be fixed and fast! We may also want to consider the pros and cons for reversing the trailer bill language mandating IHSS be used first before regional center funding. The IHSS system with its many limitations and restrictions is often not really appropriate for many of our DD population.
PENDING RATE STUDY
DDS received $3 million as part of the 2016 Special Session legislation for a contractor to conduct a service provider rate study and provide recommendations about rate setting. The rate study and recommendations to address issues with rates are due to the Legislature by March 1, 2019. Statute stipulates that the study should provide an assessment of the current methods for setting rates, including whether they provide an adequate supply of vendors; a comparison of the fiscal effects of alternative rate-setting methods; and how vendor rates relate to consumer outcomes. It also requires an evaluation of the current number and types of service codes and recommendations for possible restructuring of service codes.
Connie’s comments: Although now part of this year’s budget, this will undoubtedly have major implications for the next year DD budget.
INTERESTING AND TROUBLING FACT
Some DD Budget initiatives which were passed by both the Senate and Assembly in May were then removed in Conference Committee. Funding for social recreation and camp, $5.6 million safety net funding emoved to strengthen protection for individuals residing in Institutes for Mental Disease.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Call your legislator, express your displeasure at the budget. Better yet, go in and see them or their aides. To find your legislators name and phone # go to http://www.legislature.ca.gov/your_legislator.html
They will at least know we are watching how they vote and make them more accountable in the future.
Connie Boyar is a member of the board of Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area.