Federal Judge Issues Preliminary Injunction To Continue Blocking 20% Across-The-Board IHSS Cuts3 min read

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A federal district court judge in Oakland, as expected, issued a court order that will continue blocking the Brown Administration and the federal government from taking any steps to implement the 20% across-the-board reduction in service hours for hundreds of thousands of children and adults with disabilities – including people with developmental disabilities – and seniors who receive In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS).

The reduction would have also impact hundreds of thousands of IHSS workers. US District Court Judge Claudia Wilken issued the court order – called a “preliminary injunction” during the hearing held today in her court room in Oakland. The State will likely appeal the court order. The order issued today by Judge Wilken remains in effect unless a higher federal court – in this case the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court decides to reverse it or if Judge Wilken decides at a later date to modify (change) it in some way.

Judge Wilken issued on December 1st a temporary restraining order that blocked the reduction from taking place until a she decided whether or not to grant a more permanent order to stop the cuts from being implemented. The preliminary injunction granted by Judge Wilken – requested by those filing the lawsuit (IHSS recipients) – means that the State federal governments would still be blocked from implementing the IHSS 20% cuts. In issuing the temporary restraining order in December, Judge Wilken had found that the reductions violated federal law and likely would, if implemented, cause immediate significant harm to people with disabilities and seniors in the IHSS program who would be impacted by the cut in service hours.

Judge Wilken heard today from attorneys  representing IHSS recipients and the Brown Administration in the lawsuit David Oster, et al v. Lightbourne, (“Oster” is an IHSS recipient and “Lightbourne” is Will Lightbourne, the director of the California Department of Social Services, the state agency that oversees statewide the IHSS program). The case was previously titled V.L. v. Wagner (“V.L.” was the initials of an IHSS recipient and “Wagner” is the name of the previous director of the Department of Social Services).

The lawsuit was filed by Disability Rights California (DRC), Disability Rights Legal Center, National Senior Citizens Law Center, the National Health Law Program and San Diego attorney Charles Wolfinger on behalf of the IHSS recipients. The union plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which include five SEIU locals and United Domestic Workers-AFSCME, represented by law firm of Altshuler Berzon LLP.

20% Cut Part of the 2011-2012 State Budget “Trigger Cuts”

  • The 20% across-the-board cut in IHSS hours amounting to a reduction of over $100 million in State general fund spending in the remaining months of the 2011-2012 State Budget year (and continue into the following budget year) was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2012 but never was implemented due to the temporary restraining order that was issued in December. The 20% reduction did include several exemptions to the cut for certain eligible persons in the IHSS program. With the court order issued today – the State and federal governments are still blocked from taking any steps to implement the cut for now.
  • The reduction was part of the $1 billion in “trigger cuts” that were part of the 2011-2012 State Budget that was pulled because the State’s revenues fell significantly below what was budgeted last June.
  • Among the other state budget “trigger cuts” included $100 million reduction in state general fund spending to the developmental services budget for the 2011-2012 State budget year that ends June 30, 2012 – with another $100 million covering the 2012-2013 State Budget year.      
  • The 20% across-the-board reduction is in addition to other cuts and major changes to the IHSS program Governor Brown proposed as part of his 2012-2013 State Budget.

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Marty Omoto is Executive Director of the California Disability Community Action Network, a non-partisan link to thousands of Californians with developmental and other disabilities, people with traumatic brain injuries, the blind, the deaf, their families, community organizations and providers, direct care, homecare and other workers, and other advocates to provide information on state and local public policy issues.

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