State Fines Kern County for Mismanaging Long-Term Care Program

February 17, 2022

PERB penalty underscores growing movement to enact term limits for county BOS

SACRAMENTO — Yesterday, the California Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) issued an administrative decision finding that Kern County is subject to a 7% withholding penalty on 1991 Realignment funds due to the county’s failure to come to a collective bargaining agreement with over 7,500 In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers. The finding is the first of its kind under a 2021 law seeking to incentivize counties such as Kern who are worsening California’s long-term care crisis by refusing to recruit and retain enough workers to cover the growing need for care.

IHSS is funded by federal, state, and county sources and administered at the county level. Created out of the disability rights movement in the 1970s, IHSS provides home care to older adults and people with disabilities, allowing them to live in comfort and dignity and avoid unnecessary institutionalization. After over six years of failed negotiations, Kern’s IHSS workers currently earn only minimum wage–without benefits–for performing this critical service. United Domestic Workers of America (UDW/AFSCME 3930), the union representing Kern IHSS workers, filed the complaint that resulted in the PERB ruling.

Though the final penalty is yet to be calculated, it is expected to be in excess of $700,000.

“This is really a case of the Kern County Board of Supervisors failing basic fiscal management. Instead of paying a modest wage increase to workers who would spend the money in the local economy, they are sending money back to the state,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “Not only are they putting thousands of vulnerable Kern residents—including many veterans and children—in danger of being forced into institutional care or living on the streets, they are also depriving local businesses of much-needed consumer spending. And they are sticking taxpayers with the bill.”

This decision is only the one example of Kern County leaders’ disregard for its residents: Roads and parks are in disrepair, libraries are crumbling, and homelessness is on the rise. To change the downward trajectory of their county, Kern County residents are rising up to demand change at the BOS: Last September, a coalition of community groups filed a petition to put term limits on the 2022 ballot and are well on the way to collecting enough signatures to put the issue before voters this year.

“We need a BOS that works for ALL Kern residents, not just big money oil and gas interests,” said Sandy Moreno, an IHSS provider and one of the proponents of the term limits petition. “Everyday Kern residents like me are getting together to support term limits because we can’t wait any longer for the smart, competent leadership that this county deserves.”

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United Domestic Workers of America (UDW/AFSCME Local 3930) is a union made up of over 144,000 home care and child care providers throughout California. UDW home caregivers provide critical services through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS), which allows over half a million California seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes with dignity and independence. CCPU-UDW child care members provide quality, affordable, home-based child care for thousands of California’s working families.

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