In an effort to save money on Medi-Cal, the state's health insurance program for low-income Californians, Gov. Jerry Brown's budget seeks to bar people employed by the state's in-home supportive services program from putting in overtime.
By limiting those workers to 40 hours a week, Brown would sidestep a new federal rule -- which takes effect Jan. 1, 2015 -- requiring additional overtime pay for domestic workers. Currently, California's in-home supportive workers can work more than 40 hours a week but are paid straight time for the extra hours.
Advocates say the governor's call to prohibit overtime work, regardless of the pay level, would cause significant financial hardship for the in-home workers California dispatches to care for low-income residents who require extra assistance.
"Sending IHHS caregivers deeper into poverty not only harms the caregivers, but it puts seniors and people with disabilities at great risk," Gary Passmore of the Congress of California Seniors said during a Tuesday morning press conference on the steps of the state Capitol.
The rule would also disrupt the lives of people who rely on the program, many of whom find comfort in the stability of being consistently tended to by the same caretaker, advocates argued.
"Autistic individuals have a really hard time with changes, with new people and new situations," Martha Cobos, a Sacramento woman whose autistic twins require constant care, said on Tuesday. "The governor wants me to find another person to take care of them," she added. "With changes like that, they get really stressed."
In-home supportive services are not covered by a new law, enacted at the start of 2014, that secured overtime pay for other domestic workers. Many of the people who rely on in-home supportive services are low-income, so Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's office was wary of burdening them with an overtime pay requirement.
The proposed overtime ban seems especially inappropriate to advocates given that a surge of revenue has put California on its firmest fiscal footing in years. Brown has preached a cautious approach to the windfall, repeatedly invoking the word "prudence" as he unveiled his budget and seeking a constitutional amendment shoring up the state's rainy day fund.
"The governor talks a lot about a rainy day fund - well, Gov. Brown, it's raining," Passmore said on Tuesday. "For the people here who are caregivers, for the people they take care of, it's pouring."
PHOTO: In-home supportive services workers protest a proposed overtime cap at the State Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. on January 14, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff.