April 9, 2023
Author: Astrid Zuniga
My son, Manny, is the reason I get up every morning determined to fight for people with disabilities. At age 24, Manny lives with autism and is nonverbal. I’m his voice.
There are thousands of Mannys in California who count on someone to care for them so they can live with the rights we all want and deserve. The right to be in our own homes, rather than a nursing home, if we choose. The right to be cared for by our families and stay in our communities.
In California, the In-Home Supportive Services program anchors these rights for people with low incomes who have disabilities or who are elderly and need support with daily living. Once held up as a national model, the program is now in grave danger of failing the people who count on it most.
Underpaid and undervalued for years, caregivers are leaving the program to find jobs that will pay the bills. The result is a crisis-level shortage of care providers across the state. A full-blown catastrophe is on the horizon if California doesn’t strengthen the caregiving workforce before more Baby Boomers reach the point of needing care in their elder years.
A 2021 report from California’s state auditor found more than 40,000 elderly Californians and people with disabilities who needed IHSS care didn’t get it each month in 2019. Here in Stanislaus County, 679 people couldn’t access their care monthly. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and burnout forced more caregivers out of the workforce.
It breaks my heart that many people like Manny are losing out on the care they need to be safe, to deliver their medication, to help them dress or use the bathroom. In Stanislaus County, providing intimate care for a human being like my son pays less than $1 above the minimum wage, and in the vast majority of counties pay is less than $2 above the minimum.
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