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As San Diego county dodged minimum wage, elderly suffered

"Caregivers who work full time would qualify for public assistance"

Elaine Howle
Elaine Howle

Should San Diegans who provide home care services to the elderly and others get at least the minimum wage? So posits an audit by California State Auditor Elaine Howle, which charges officials here with ignoring the law, resulting in a two-year underpayment of $19 million.

California's taxpayer-supported In-Home Supportive Services program, administered by counties, "serves more than 591,000 recipients," says state auditor Elaine M. Howle in a February 15 cover letter, "avoiding long-term care arrangements that would be much more costly to the State."

But auditors discovered that "more than 40,000 recipients on average did not receive in-home care each month, and that number is likely to grow," as "the gap between the number of recipients and the number of caregivers is widening."

Low pay is the primary culprit, per the findings.

According to the new study, which included the counties of San Diego, Butte, Kern, and Stanislaus, "caregivers throughout the State receive pay that is at or near minimum wage, and caregivers earn significantly less than a living wage in each county. In fact, many caregivers who work full time would qualify for public assistance."

"For example, in 2019, the living wage in Kern County was $18.84 per hour, while a caregiver earned $12 per hour, the state minimum wage. In San Diego County, the disparity was greater, with a living wage of $24.62 compared to hourly caregiver wages of $12.50."

Explains the report, "Living-wage calculations represent the wages necessary for a full-time worker to afford basic necessities without public assistance."

Two years earlier, the San Diego home-care workers faced even tougher times. '"Caregivers in the city of San Diego earned less than the local minimum wage for a part of 2016 and all of 2017," per the study.

"A City of San Diego ordinance set the minimum wage within the city at $10.50 and $11.50, respectively, in these years," the document says.

"However, after the city of San Diego established its local minimum wage, [California] Social Services offered guidance to San Diego's public authority that the ordinance did not apply to [In-Home Supportive Services], although the guidance did not explain why.

"As a result, [In-Home Supportive Services] caregivers in the city of San Diego received wages that were between 50 cents and $1 per hour less than the pay of other minimum-wage workers in that city.

"Had this local minimum wage applied to IHSS workers, they would collectively have been paid about $19 million more over the two-year period."

San Diego was not alone, the document notes.

"Between 2014 and 2019, localities in seven counties passed ordinances that raised local minimum wages by varying amounts; however, these localities declined to grant the increase to local IHSS caregivers.

"Although this may be permissible, it creates a situation in which [In-Home Supportive Services] work is not as competitive with positions that pay the local minimum wage."

The chronic pay deficits have spawned a yawning service gap, says the audit. "Recruiting a sufficient number of caregivers will be difficult because the job pays minimum or near-minimum wage, below a living wage in even the State's most affordable counties."

"The four counties we reviewed—Butte, Kern, San Diego, and Stanislaus—did not ensure that all recipients received services each month," according to the report.

"In fact, the average number of recipients who did not receive monthly services in these four counties generally increased over our review period."

"A growing number of recipients—tens of thousands each month—do not receive the services for which they qualify because the State and counties alike have failed to complete mandatory annual planning activities intended to ensure care for all recipients."

The audit holds out hope for San Diego, commending officials here for better planning than other California counties. "San Diego's plan has objectives aimed at building better health in its elderly population and includes performance measures that are specific to the [In-Home Supportive Services] program," the report says. " Such planning will be critical to ensure that all eligible recipients receive services each month."

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Elaine Howle
Elaine Howle

Should San Diegans who provide home care services to the elderly and others get at least the minimum wage? So posits an audit by California State Auditor Elaine Howle, which charges officials here with ignoring the law, resulting in a two-year underpayment of $19 million.

California's taxpayer-supported In-Home Supportive Services program, administered by counties, "serves more than 591,000 recipients," says state auditor Elaine M. Howle in a February 15 cover letter, "avoiding long-term care arrangements that would be much more costly to the State."

But auditors discovered that "more than 40,000 recipients on average did not receive in-home care each month, and that number is likely to grow," as "the gap between the number of recipients and the number of caregivers is widening."

Low pay is the primary culprit, per the findings.

According to the new study, which included the counties of San Diego, Butte, Kern, and Stanislaus, "caregivers throughout the State receive pay that is at or near minimum wage, and caregivers earn significantly less than a living wage in each county. In fact, many caregivers who work full time would qualify for public assistance."

"For example, in 2019, the living wage in Kern County was $18.84 per hour, while a caregiver earned $12 per hour, the state minimum wage. In San Diego County, the disparity was greater, with a living wage of $24.62 compared to hourly caregiver wages of $12.50."

Explains the report, "Living-wage calculations represent the wages necessary for a full-time worker to afford basic necessities without public assistance."

Two years earlier, the San Diego home-care workers faced even tougher times. '"Caregivers in the city of San Diego earned less than the local minimum wage for a part of 2016 and all of 2017," per the study.

"A City of San Diego ordinance set the minimum wage within the city at $10.50 and $11.50, respectively, in these years," the document says.

"However, after the city of San Diego established its local minimum wage, [California] Social Services offered guidance to San Diego's public authority that the ordinance did not apply to [In-Home Supportive Services], although the guidance did not explain why.

"As a result, [In-Home Supportive Services] caregivers in the city of San Diego received wages that were between 50 cents and $1 per hour less than the pay of other minimum-wage workers in that city.

"Had this local minimum wage applied to IHSS workers, they would collectively have been paid about $19 million more over the two-year period."

San Diego was not alone, the document notes.

"Between 2014 and 2019, localities in seven counties passed ordinances that raised local minimum wages by varying amounts; however, these localities declined to grant the increase to local IHSS caregivers.

"Although this may be permissible, it creates a situation in which [In-Home Supportive Services] work is not as competitive with positions that pay the local minimum wage."

The chronic pay deficits have spawned a yawning service gap, says the audit. "Recruiting a sufficient number of caregivers will be difficult because the job pays minimum or near-minimum wage, below a living wage in even the State's most affordable counties."

"The four counties we reviewed—Butte, Kern, San Diego, and Stanislaus—did not ensure that all recipients received services each month," according to the report.

"In fact, the average number of recipients who did not receive monthly services in these four counties generally increased over our review period."

"A growing number of recipients—tens of thousands each month—do not receive the services for which they qualify because the State and counties alike have failed to complete mandatory annual planning activities intended to ensure care for all recipients."

The audit holds out hope for San Diego, commending officials here for better planning than other California counties. "San Diego's plan has objectives aimed at building better health in its elderly population and includes performance measures that are specific to the [In-Home Supportive Services] program," the report says. " Such planning will be critical to ensure that all eligible recipients receive services each month."

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Comments
5

Once again the taxpayer is left holding the bag. First they have to support the bloated bureaucracy they must support the welfare that these workers qualify for.

March 20, 2021

While I'm not sure I buy into those hourly rates that are in that model, the cost of living isn't low anywhere in the state now, except for a few rural backwater areas. The big cities are expensive, and SD is right up there. Housing is a major factor, but getting around with a car is costly (87 octane regular at $4 a gallon) and medical care or a trip to the dentist can be shockingly high. So, this program isn't really serving those who it is intended to help due to infrequent visits. But if the hourly rates were increased, there would be fewer dollars to spread around, and even fewer hours worked. Sort of a trap isn't it, unless the counties add to the pot.

This reminds me of substitute teacher pay some years back. It wasn't something anyone could depend upon for any sort of living wage. Seasonal to the max, around 2000 most districts were paying about $80 a day, and complaining that they couldn't afford any more. Ahh, but the districts were paying their superintendents $200K up--most more than that--and the next layer down wasn't hurting either. School principals were well into six figures. But were they all that smart and capable? Hah! Many of those administrators couldn't have successfully run a hot dog stand. So, the folks in the trenches were on short rations while the clowns who ran the schools were sitting pretty as they went along, and could look forward to a luxurious retirement check. Let's hear it for government bureaucracies.

March 22, 2021
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
March 20, 2021

If there is anyone who really deserves higher pay, it's caregivers. But there is one thing people need to keep in mind in any profession. What does this job pay? If you're NOT comfortable with the pay, whether you're a doctor, lawyer, you babysat back in the day for 50 cents an hour -- or anything in between, don't take the job. Taking a job when you're not comfortable with the pay is a lose-lose situation. Not only will you shortchange yourself financially, your work will suffer because you feel unfairly compensated. Think about it before you sign on the dotted line. There are people who are comfortable with lower wages, and if enough people don't apply for the job, maybe wages will be raised.

March 22, 2021

Those public streets have now gotten soo quiet, as they are getting too cleaned out. As the public streets were the earlier problem, now the national border, that runs along our count(r)y line be the trouble -- as the citizens expand their traveling up further north. Be it walking, trolley, bus, public transit; car, bus, truck --- or whatever way.. Further concern to the health environment.

April 12, 2021

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