Do the right thing

Exclusively online:
Read more about the Assembly hearing in Chico here.

Butte County’s chief administrative officer, Paul McIntosh, made a good point last week at an Assembly hearing when he told a state legislator not to blame Butte County for home-care workers’ low wage, but to blame the state instead.

It’s the state’s funding mechanism that has kept Butte County near insolvency for decades, he told Hector de la Torre, chairman (and in this case lone representative) of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 1 on Health and Human Services at a hearing held May 11 in Chico State University’s Harlen Adams Theater.

The state has also saddled the county with Oroville Dam and has failed to reimburse it for the cost of the many impacts the dam has had—to the tune of $4.56 million in annual operational costs and a loss of $6.8 million in property taxes, McIntosh charged. It’s no wonder the county can’t afford to pay in-home supportive services (IHSS) workers more money, he said.

We understand his frustration, but something must be done. The current wage paid IHSS workers, who care for the disabled and invalided elderly, is $7.11 an hour. That’s simply intolerable. It’s not a living wage, and it makes the disabled’s lives more difficult by making it terribly hard to attract and retain reliable, quality employees. Anyone making just $7.11 an hour, with no benefits whatsoever, is looking for something better.

Besides, county leaders should understand the importance of creating good jobs here. Increasing IHSS workers’ wage to $9.25, the amount they’d like to receive, and providing health insurance would bring an additional $9 million in state and federal funds into the county, while providing some 2,500 IHSS workers with fair recompense.

The county’s cost of the increase would be an estimated $1.9 million. The good news is that the state will reimburse 97 percent of it. The bad news is that it could take two years or more.

The health care workers’ union, California United Homecare Workers, is sponsoring efforts to get that lag time down to a year or less. And Assemblyman de la Torre said he’d be happy to work with Butte County on the Oroville Dam reimbursement issue. Everybody wants Butte County to do right by its home-care workers. That means negotiating a fair wage and benefits for them. The ball is in the county’s court.

Exclusively online: Read more about the Assembly hearing in Chico here.