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Improving Tuolumne county IHSS program

The state’s homecare program (In-Home Supportive-Services, also known as “IHSS”) ensures that California’s low-income seniors and persons living with disabilities have the option to remain safely and independently in their own homes, rather than being placed in unfamiliar and costlier institutions.

The critical care In-Home Caregivers provide includes: administering medication, bowel and bladder care, bathing and feeding, grocery shopping/cooking, transportation to and from medical appointments, and careful monitoring of those who need protective supervision. Without homecare, many of our state’s seniors and disabled would end up unnecessarily entering institutionalized care (costing California tax payers nearly six times more than the average IHSS case according to a 2011 report by the LAO), emergency rooms, or worse, the streets.

Despite providing this crucial care, most of the state’s In-Home Caregivers are paid at or just above the hourly minimum wage and lack adequate health care benefits. More than 80% of In-Home Caregivers and their families currently live below the federal poverty level. Many struggle just to meet basic daily needs and are forced to make difficult decisions between caring for themselves and caring for others.

Nearly two (2) decades after other counties began raising wages for In-Home Caregivers, Tuolumne County finally agreed to set wages for our community’s In-Home Caregivers- to just slightly above the state minimum wage level. Due to the tri-tiered funding system of the IHSS program, counties assume less than 18% of total program costs. Local spending on the IHSS program by counties “triggers” or “draws down” matching and exceeding state and federal dollars. This means that on average, every $0.18 spent by a county on the IHSS program “triggers” nearly $0.82 in matching state and federal dollars!

An investment in IHSS in Tuolumne County could go a long way towards bringing desperately needed state and federal tax dollars back to our local economy. These are dollars that could be spent on goods and services in our community- to help local businesses at a time when they could use a hand. And investing in IHSS isn’t hard to do.

Our county Supervisors determine wages and benefits for local In-Home Caregivers. By maintaining low wage levels and not providing benefits, the county is penny wise but pound foolish. IHSS is one of few programs with funding mechanisms that reward counties with high reimbursement levels for increased local spending. Low In-Home Caregiver wages and a lack of benefits lead to high turnover for local In-Home Caregivers and jeopardize the ability of our county’s seniors and disabled to receive the care they need in the integrity of their homes.

Please contact your district Supervisor today and ask him/her to strengthen our local economy and community by investing in the IHSS program.