“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” said Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider for her daughter, Katie, who lives with autism in El Dorado County.
Claire was reacting to Governor Brown’s decision today to veto Assembly Bill 1930. Like nearly 86,000 other parent and spouse providers, Claire was hoping the governor would do the right thing and put providers on a path to securing Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment pay—basic safety net benefits that IHSS providers who care for their child or spouse are currently excluded from.
This year our union UDW sponsored AB 1930, and caregivers shared our stories with legislators at the Capitol, signed petitions, and called our elected leaders, urging them to stand with us on this vital issue. Our hard work paid off: the bill received unprecedented bipartisan support and was passed unanimously by both the State Assembly and the Senate. Once it got to the governor’s desk, we made one last push to get it passed when we delivered petitions signed by thousands of Californians urging the governor to sign the bill.
But today Governor Brown vetoed AB 1930 in spite of our efforts, leaving tens of thousands of spouse and parent caregivers worrying about whether we will ever be able to retire without the supplemental benefit of Social Security. And without unemployment pay, many of us will continue to wonder what would happen to our families if our client passes away.
These problems may sound far off or abstract to some, including the governor, but to home care providers, they are very real.
“Like many home care recipients, a lot of our family members are medically fragile,” said Claire. “I have a six-year-old daughter at home as well. If something happened to Katie, my youngest daughter and I would have to rely on public assistance because I don’t qualify for unemployment.”
Cathyleen Williams from San Bernardino County knows that nightmare firsthand. Her son Caleb passed away this year. When he passed, she not only lost her most precious loved one, but her entire income as well. Cathyleen applied for unemployment benefits because she’d worked as her son’s IHSS provider for nine years. She was shocked when she was denied, all because her IHSS client was her son.
Cathyleen shared her story when she joined UDW caregivers at the Capitol in Sacramento to deliver our petitions urging the governor to sign AB 1930. “No one should have to endure the death of their young child,” she said. “But to grieve while also scrambling to make sure your bills are paid and you don’t end up homeless? I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my greatest enemy.”
And it is a nightmare. It’s also a source of frustration and confusion for home care providers who know our work is worthy of the same respect and benefits as all other work.
“I’m a single mom who works as a full-time caregiver,” said Jesse Torres from San Diego County. “I take my job seriously. I’ve completed trainings and received certifications to make sure I provide my daughter the best care she can get.”
Jesse’s 12-year-old daughter Cessia lives with Rett syndrome, which causes physical and mental disabilities. To manage Cessia’s condition, Jesse has worked as her full-time IHSS provider for 10 years. “Why am I not eligible for the same benefits as any other mother who goes to her job every day?” Jesse asked. “I could put my daughter in a medical facility or a nursing home that would cost the state more money, and the caregivers there would do the same work but they would get these benefits.”
Despite the governor’s decision today, UDW will continue to make winning Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment pay for spouse and parent providers a top priority. “All home care providers are workers who deserve dignity and respect,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “Spouse and parent home care providers have worked long enough without access to these basic benefits.”
UDW will keep you updated on our continued work to win Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits for spouse and parent caregivers via our website – www.udwa.org – and our Facebook page – www.facebook.com/UDW.
Yesterday, UDW caregivers from around the state gathered in Sacramento to urge Governor Brown to sign Assembly Bill 1930. We delivered petitions signed by over 3,600 IHSS providers and members of our communities to his office in the Capitol.
Assembly Bill 1930 addresses a problem facing an estimated 86,000 parent and spouse IHSS providers who are currently left out of Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits because of unfair state and federal policies.
“Parent and spouse providers work as hard as other home care workers,” said Lidia Rodriguez who works as the home care provider for her son and a 73-year-old woman in Stanislaus County. “All workers should have access to these benefits.”
Susana Saldana provides care for her son Mario who lives with cerebral palsy in Merced County. Unlike Lidia who should receive Social Security and other benefits for the work she does for her elderly, non-family client, Susana cares solely for Mario and she’s worried about her future. “I may not be able to retire,” she said. “I could end up homeless without Social Security.”
If AB 1930 becomes law, it will be the first step in our journey to secure these vital retirement and social safety net benefits for home care workers who care for their spouse or child. The bill would establish the In-Home Supportive Services Family Caregiver Benefits Advisory Committee, which would study how denying workers benefits like Social Security and unemployment hurt IHSS providers and our families. “It’s an injustice,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R – Palmdale), the author of AB 1930. “It’s something that is very wrong with our system.”
So far, with help from UDW caregivers, as well as Assemblymember Lackey and the bill’s coauthors, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) and Senator Mike McGuire (D – Healdsburg), AB 1930 has gathered widespread public support and was passed by both the Assembly and the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support.
Another member of the legislature, Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (D – San Bernardino) who serves as a caregiver for her husband who lives with ALS, came out to support caregivers yesterday. “Home care providers do the tough, stressful, yet vital work of looking after the day-to-day needs of the people for whom they care,” she said. “Despite the important nature of in-home care, all caregivers are not treated equally.”
UDW Executive Director Doug Moore thanked the legislature for their support, and called on Governor Brown to follow suit. “Home care workers, like nearly every worker in this country, including our governor, should at the very least receive Social Security when they retire,” he said.
William Reed takes care of his 39-year-old son in Placer County. His son lives with autism and requires constant care. Although William receives retirement benefits from a previous job, he worries about his wife who doesn’t pay into Social Security or Medicare. “We follow the same guidelines,” he said. “We’re held up to the same standards as all IHSS home care providers…We are paid caregivers. This work is our job. We deserve to retire with the same benefits as nearly every other American worker.”
Cathyleen Williams’ son Caleb was born with a terminal heart defect. Cathyleen worked as Caleb’s IHSS provider in Barstow until he passed away in March. When she applied for unemployment, Cathyleen was denied, because her home care client was her son.
“No one should have to endure the death of their young child,” she said. “But to grieve while also scrambling to make sure your bills are paid and that you don’t end up homeless? I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my greatest enemy.”
William and Cathyleen were joined by about a dozen UDW caregivers as they walked the petitions into the Capitol. Once inside, William and Cathyleen, accompanied by UDW Executive Director Doug Moore, Assemblymember Cheryl Brown, and Assemblymember Lackey took the petitions into the governor’s office. Assemblymember Lackey gave our message to a member of Governor Brown’s staff: “These are support petitions for this particular measure the governor will be evaluating soon. The measure was unanimous in both houses…it’s very, very important to very many people.”
Yesterday, with the delivery of our petitions, we gave Governor Brown over 3,600 reasons to do what is right and sign Assembly Bill 1930. He has until the end of September to sign or veto the bill.
For Immediate Release
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Contact: Margitte Kristjansson, 619-548-4304
California home care providers who care for their spouse or child are ineligible for Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits.
Sacramento – Today In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) home care workers met at the Capitol to deliver petitions to Governor Brown signed by over 3,500 Californians. The petitions call on the governor to sign Assembly Bill 1930, a bill sponsored by the United Domestic Workers/AFSCME Local 3930, and authored by Assemblymember Tom Lackey (R – Palmdale) with coauthors Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D – San Diego) and Senator Mike McGuire (D – Healdsburg).
If a home care provider’s client is their spouse or child, they are excluded from making contributions to FICA and State Unemployment Insurance – leaving them ineligible for Medicare, Social Security, and unemployment pay. AB 1930 begins to address this injustice by convening a committee to study the economic impact exclusion from these benefits has on home care workers and their families.
“All caregivers work hard for their clients, and all caregivers deserve these very basic benefits,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “Today, we call on Governor Brown to help us in our work to fix this issue by signing AB 1930.”
“In-home care workers who care for their families are entitled to the same employment benefits that every other worker in the same program receives,” added Assemblymember Lackey.
Cathyleen Williams from Barstow worked as her son Caleb’s IHSS home care provider for nine and a half years until he passed away in March. When Cathyleen applied for unemployment insurance, she was denied because Caleb – her home care client – was her son. “No one should have to endure the death of their young child,” said Cathyleen. “But to grieve while also scrambling to make sure your bills are paid and you don’t end up homeless? I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my greatest enemy.”
William Reed, a home care provider for his 39-year-old son with autism in Placer County worries about not only his own retirement plans, but those of his fellow spouse and parent caregivers as well. “We deal with high levels of stress, work without real respite time, or paid leave, and to add insult to injury, we can’t even count on Social Security or Medicare when we retire,” he said.
AB 1930 was passed unanimously by both the Senate and the Assembly. Caregivers are calling on Governor Brown to look at the human impact that life without access to unemployment benefits, Social Security, and Medicare has on caregivers, and sign AB 1930.
United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930 is a home care union made up of nearly 94,000 in-home caregivers across the state of California. UDW caregivers provide care through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS), which allows over half a million California seniors and people with disabilities to stay safe and healthy at home.
My oldest son Ronald was studying to become a professor when one day he had a catastrophic stroke that left him quadriplegic, non-verbal, and dependent on a feeding tube. After his stroke, he was initially in a nursing home, but I could see it wasn’t good for his health. My family decided the best thing for him was to receive care at home. About eight years ago, I quit my job of 16 years to become Ronald’s full-time home care provider.
All of my money goes to my bills. I don’t have enough to set aside in a savings account. At this point, I just have to hope nothing happens to me. It isn’t easy caring for someone with my son’s needs, but I plan to keep providing him care as long as he needs me. Not only because it is what’s best for him, but also because without Social Security, I can’t afford to retire. Parents and spouses who provide care for their loved ones deserve the same benefits as all other working Americans.
Patricia Kutzer is an IHSS provider for her son Ronald in Madera County. Read more about our fight to win Social Security and Medicare for spouse and parent providers here.