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JD_IHSS_HEARING.JPGRecipients of in-home care services for low-income disabled and elderly California residents can breathe a little easier today, after a tentative settlement was announced in a court fight over proposed cuts to the program.

The pact will end three class-action lawsuits challenging proposals to cut hours, services and state reimbursement rates in an effort to help California survive years of budget crisis, from 2009 to 2012.

Service hours for In-Home Supportive Services will be cut by an additional 4.4 percent under the agreement beginning July 1, reflecting a nearly 8 percent cut since 2011. The state is expected to save an estimated $160 million in 2013-14. But the reduction is a far cry from the 20 percent cut that was ordered by the state in late 2011 but suspended by a federal judge.

Both sides expect the outlook to brighten in years ahead: 1 percent of the 8 percent cut will be restored in spring 2014, and the pact includes a strategy for rescinding the remaining cuts, perhaps in 2015.

Unionized in-home support services compensate caregivers, often relatives, for providing services such as cooking, bathing and driving to medical appointments. Without such help, many recipients would be forced into more costly nursing homes, advocates say.

Service Employees International Union and a nonprofit group, Disability Rights California, led the court fight against the state's proposed cuts. The agreement is tentative because its terms require legislative action.

PHOTO CREDIT: Supporters of In-Home Supportive Services watch then-Sen. Wesley Chesbro on a TV during a Senate subcommittee hearing in the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday, May 20, 2004. John Decker / Sacramento Bee file, 2004


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