SACRAMENTO -- Several thousand home aides and the low-income people with disabilities under their care swarmed the Capitol on Thursday to protest a plan to cap the number of hours taxpayer-funded aides can work each month.
New federal rules require America's in-home workers to get overtime pay starting next year, but Gov. Jerry Brown says it will be too costly for California and instead wants to limit aides to a 40-hour workweek.
Funding for state programs to help those who are poor and have disabilities were slashed several years ago at the height of California's budget crisis. That fact makes Brown's proposal to block In-Home Supportive Services workers from earning overtime pay even more painful, advocates for people with disabilities say.
"Continuing cuts is ... not only uncaring, it is unwarranted amidst a multibillion dollar surplus," said Karen Forde, a San Diego County resident who cares for an 89-year-old client.
As Brown and lawmakers head into the final days of budget negotiations, home aides and advocates are hopeful the governor will come around and back off his plan.
After staging a large, emotionally charged rally on a lawn adjacent to the Capitol, close to 1,000 people peacefully occupied the building's hallways. Dozens of protesters in wheelchairs lined up outside the entrance to the Brown administration's suite of offices.
Some people wrote letters to Brown and lawmakers and tacked the notes onto the Capitol's first-floor hallways.
One note scrawled on bright-green paper said the plan "only hurts the already hurting" and urged the state's political power brokers to support the people who elected them.
The state estimates that 11 percent of the 464,000 people who will get help from IHSS aides during the fiscal year that starts in July are authorized by the state to get more than 160 hours of assistance per month, the threshold that would trigger overtime for their caregivers.
Next year it would cost the state $172 million in new state spending to pay overtime and less than half as much ($81 million) to avoid it, the state estimates. The following year, however, the costs would double because the cap doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, halfway through the next fiscal year.