SSI/SSP and IHSS Programs Face More Budget Fallout

Yesterday, grants for low-income seniors and people with disabilities were cut for the third time this year as part of the state’s effort to close the massive budget gap that consumed policymakers for much of 2009. The maximum monthly Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) grant for couples dropped from $1,489 in October to $1,407 (5.5 percent), while the maximum grant for individuals fell from $850 to $845 (0.6 percent).

Combined with previous cuts that took effect on May 1 and July 1, the maximum SSI/SSP grant for couples has fallen by a total of $172 per month this year, and the maximum grant for individuals has declined by $62 per month. The grant for couples is now at the minimum level required by federal law. California cannot cut that grant any further without triggering a stunning penalty – the loss of all federal funding for the Medi-Cal Program. However, the grant for individuals is about $15 above the federal minimum, which could make it a target of future state budget-cutting efforts.

Many of the state’s more than 1.1 million SSI/SSP recipients also receive in-home care through the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Program. IHSS recipients got a measure of good news earlier last month when a federal judge blocked the state from implementing service reductions that were included in the July 2009 budget agreement. Those cuts were scheduled to take effect November 1 and would have affected more than 130,000 IHSS recipients.

But those weren’t the only IHSS changes included in the July budget agreement. A number of new requirements for in-home care providers were due to take effect yesterday, including new provider enrollment forms, fingerprinting and criminal background checks, and orientation and training. However, county officials testified at a legislative hearing last week that they would not be able to meet that deadline because of the state’s failure to finalize needed instructions, problems with state instructions that had been issued, and other implementation issues. The Assembly Budget Committee may hold a follow-up hearing to sort through more of the details this week, and legislation could be introduced to address the situation.

— Scott Graves

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