“No justice, no peace!” Activists led by seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers shame Board of Supervisors for ignoring county’s home care program

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“No justice, no peace!” Activists led by seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers shame Board of Supervisors for ignoring county’s home care program

Struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage, activists say county leaders must invest in the home care program so caregivers can afford to keep doing their job

Stockton — After ten months of attempted negotiations with county representatives, caregivers with the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program were joined by activists including local community groups and caregivers across the county in urging county leaders to stop wasting time at the bargaining table and support the life-saving program that allows seniors and people with disabilities to receive the care they need in the comfort of their own home.

Activists organized today’s action after numerous attempts to bargain in good faith the terms of a new contract for IHSS workers. Their current contract expired over 3 years ago. They argue that it is the county’s job to represent the needs of their constituents and right now, IHSS caregivers are struggling to make ends meet and are urging the Board of Supervisors to support a new contract with a livable wage. Currently, county home care providers earn just minimum wage, receive few benefits, and many must rely on federal assistance to feed their families. Without a livable wage, many worry seniors and people with disabilities like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and Down syndrome will be left without a caregiver because the cost-of-living is hard to keep up with.

“I’m fed up with the county telling us $0 for the past several months,” said Gina Castillano who cares for her autistic son and has been a member of the bargaining committee that meets regularly with county representatives. “It’s an insult for the county to come with nothing to bargain with at the table. An insult to not just the workers but the people we provide care to. People’s lives are at stake and they’re telling us they don’t care. This is not how our elected officials should be addressing the needs of their constituents.”

Presently, over 6,000 San Joaquin County low-income seniors and people with disabilities rely on a caregiver with the IHSS Program to live as independently as possible in their own home. And according to the California State Plan on Aging, by 2030 the San Joaquin County senior population will have gone up by nearly 90%. This increase will only create greater demand for the cost-effective care provided by IHSS caregivers who provide provide support with administering medication, transportation to doctor’s appointments, meal preparation, grooming, and bathing. People get to stay in the comfort of their own home thanks to the IHSS Program instead of being institutionalized in hospitals and psych wards.

The caregivers started negotiating with the county 10 months ago and 12 times. Each time, the county offered no new resources to the IHSS Program.

“The community is fed up with the lack of leadership from the Board of Supervisors and the disrespect toward seniors, people with disabilities, and our county caregivers,” said Marcus McRae, Regional Director of SEIU 2015. “The Supervisors are turning their backs to our seniors, many of whom want to live at home instead of an institution. And they are turning their backs to a workforce of caregivers that not only help our loved ones thrive, but they help them remain in the comfort of their homes. We need our county leadership to step up and represent the needs of their constituency. Enough with the complacency.”

The IHSS Program has allowed numerous people to age with dignity in their homes, recover from a traumatic health problem, and remain in the environment they know with people they trust. It is a vital program that thousands rely on to survive and only costs the county 16 cents per dollar to fund as the state and federal government cover the rest. Moreover, the county spends a minimal amount to fund the program yet reaps 100% of the benefits as the workers and care recipients spend their money in their local community at food stores, clothing stores, and local eateries.

The activists plan on having a second community action on August 27.

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