Homecare services fully funded in San Francisco budget

NewsJune 3, 2009

Newsom administration adopts NUHW budget proposal to preserve 100% of current wages and benefits for IHSS provider

SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2009-10 budget will fully maintain current levels of compensation for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) providers, in a plan that tracks a costing model proposed last month by the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

Mayor Newsom’s budget proposal is expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, preserving $11.54 per hour in wages and all current health benefits for the County’s 17,000 homecare providers. The only change proposed is an increase in monthly health insurance premiums from $3 to $10, a reduction that NUHW leaders say they will continue working to reverse and Newsom administration officials say they will continue to negotiate with the Board of Supervisors.

“Mayor Newsom’s decision to maintain full funding for homecare services is a reflection of San Francisco’s values as a caring community and its history as a city that finds a way to do what’s right,” said Barbara Blong, Executive Director of the Senior Action Network. “NUHW’s leadership in lighting the path to save these vital services and preserve workers’ wages and benefits was indispensable.”

The Mayor’s budget will maintain homecare workers’ wages and benefits despite Gov. Schwarzenegger’s devastating cuts to state homecare funding—largely by back-filling the loss of state funds with additional federal Medicaid funds available to San Francisco through the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package.

The Newsom administration followed the approach proposed to them and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) in a memo of May 7, 2009. The memo detailed the specific changes in IHSS funding that would result from the combination of state cuts and federal enhancements, and explained how the City and County of San Francisco could fully maintain workers’ wages and benefits at no additional cost.

“This victory proves that homecare workers can protect our wages when we’re united with Kaiser workers and hospital workers in a strong, democratic union,” said Juanantonio Molina, an IHSS provider in San Francisco. “That union is NUHW. While SEIU has been spending millions to divide us, NUHW’s leaders and members have been doing the hands-on work it takes to develop a real plan to preserve funding and secure the support of key decision makers. We thank Mayor Newsom for extraordinary leadership on this issue and his ongoing commitment to the most vulnerable members of our community and the people who care for them. He has set a standard that we hope California’s other counties will follow.”

The same funding solution is equally available to other California counties, which could choose to swap the additional funds available through the federal Recovery Act for the matching funds lost from the State of California. NUHW will continue to work for the adoption of this solution by counties throughout the state to protect services for frail seniors and people with disabilities, and to maintain living wages and affordable health insurance for homecare workers across California, while continuing the fight to restore state funding for this vital healthcare service.

“While NUHW members and leaders have been working to educate local lawmakers on this constructive solution to the cuts in state homecare funding, SEIU has been missing in action,” said Sal Rosselli, interim president of NUHW. “Instead they have diverted their resources into blocking elections for nearly 100,000 healthcare workers and fighting homecare workers in Fresno who are voting to declare their independence from SEIU. As a result they have failed to protect homecare funding at every level.”

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The National Union of Healthcare Workers is an independent, member-led union, dedicated to improving the lives of healthcare workers and the people they care for. NUHW is building a national movement of caregivers to hold healthcare corporations accountable to the public interest and win affordable, quality healthcare for all.