By Kevin Yamamura
A federal judge on Thursday continued to block the state from reducing in-home care to low-income disabled and elderly residents, a budget cut pursued last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers.
The reduction would have slashed one-fifth of service hours for In-Home Supportive Services recipients to save the state $100 million over the next six months.
U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken converted her temporary December order blocking the state into a preliminary injunction.
Last month, Wilken said the IHSS cut "raises serious questions" about whether the state had violated several federal laws, including those protecting people with disabilities.
The state will challenge the decision with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, said Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. He said that since last summer, court decisions and federal administrative delays have cost the state nearly $2 billion in savings. It is a factor that Brown has cited as contributing to the state's $9.2 billion deficit.
Labor unions, disability rights advocates and IHSS recipients filed their lawsuit last fall. Wilken told them Thursday to meet with state officials to discuss ways to cut IHSS spending, Bird said.
The $100 million cut is part of the $1 billion in mid-year "trigger" cuts that took effect when fiscal forecasters determined last month that California would fall short in revenues this fiscal year.
The state will spend $1.5 billion on IHSS this year for 434,000 residents. The unionized program pays caregivers, often relatives, to provide services such as cooking, bathing and driving to medical appointments.
Advocates say that many IHSS recipients would be unable to live at home without such assistance, forcing them in more costly nursing homes.
Though the original plan offered an appeal process for recipients at greatest risk, Disability Rights California attorney Melinda Bird said it cut indiscriminately and the notification process was faulty, especially for non-English speakers and blind people.
"The state has a right to reduce hours for people who don't need the time to remain safely at home, we don't disagree with that," Bird said. "What you can't do is cut benefits to everyone and, as the judge says, make them claw back on."