County Can’t Cut Wages for Caregivers

FRESNO, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge enjoined California from slashing pay and benefits for in-home health-care providers in Fresno County. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the pay cuts would hurt the elderly and disabled, and their caregivers, and would end up costing Fresno County “tens of millions of additional dollars” by forcing people into institutional care.

     Judge Wilken ruled that the county’s proposal cut In-Home Support Services workers’ pay from $10.25 to $8 an hour would place undue hardship on the caregivers themselves and the more than 12,000 elderly and disabled people who depend on them.
     Defendant Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the reduction into law under the California Welfare and Institutions code in February 2009, but it was overturned a few months later in federal court.
     Nevertheless, Fresno County continued with plans to cut wages, claiming “that it is in dire financial straits and cannot afford to continue to pay IHHS providers wages and benefits of $11.10 per hour.”
     But the caregivers said that the pay cut would make them unable to afford food and housing. They added that “many of these providers are family members of IHHS consumers and are responsible for providing housing, food, medication and other necessities for their elderly or disabled relatives.”
     And they pointed out that if pay were cut, many elderly and disabled people would be forced into nursing homes at greater expense to the state.
Judge Wilken agreed that the cuts would “cause many providers to reduce their hours or quit IHHS employment entirely” and that they would “also suffer immediate and irreparable harm.”
Wilken also found “persuasive evidence that the wage cuts would actually cause the State and Fresno County tens of millions of additional dollars because in-home care is considerably less expensive than institutional care and IHHS providers reduce the need for expensive emergency room visits. …
“Defendants are enjoined and restrained from implementing Fresno’s wage and benefits reductions.”

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