Governor Brown released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2018-2019 earlier this week. Despite the governor’s recognition of growing levels of poverty across California, his proposal prioritizes increasing California’s reserves without including any new investments or initiatives to increase the health care and economic security of older adults in California. With a Rainy Day Fund now totaling $13.5 billion, California is in a financial position to restore and strengthen programs that lift seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty while also maintaining sufficient reserves to protect against future federal threats and economic uncertainties. For low-income seniors aging into homelessness and struggling on fixed incomes, we can and must do more.
Most critically, the budget proposal does not restore benefits for elderly Californians and people with disabilities who rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to meet basic needs. Specifically, the proposal fails to increase the State Supplementary Payment (SSP), which is the state-funded addition to the federal SSI benefit, or to provide a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) to the SSP. SSI/SSP helps ensure stability for seniors and people with disabilities at the very lowest income levels. However, as a result of recession-era cuts to the SSP, the benefit for an individual fell from 100.5% of the federal poverty level in 2009 to 90.5% of the federal poverty level in 2018, leaving individuals with a total SSI/SSP monthly individual benefit of just $910. As a part of the Californians for SSI coalition, Justice in Aging will continue pushing for full restoration of the SSP and annual COLA so that we can lift all seniors in California out of poverty.
Summary of Other Key Budget Proposals for Low-Income Older Adults:
Funding for Medi-Cal Dental Benefits and the State Oral Health Program
Last year, the Legislature and Governor implemented legislation to fully restore dental benefits to adult Medi-Cal recipients starting January 1, 2018, including root canals on the back teeth, gum treatment, and partial dentures. This year’s budget proposal includes $212.2 million to fund the restoration. This is a huge win for the overall health of older adults. For more information on the newly restored benefits, take a look at these Dental Factsheets we developed in collaboration with our partners at CPEHN and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
This year’s budget proposal will also continue funding to California’s Oral Health Program within the Department of Public Health. This year the program will receive $30 million in funding to improve the oral health of all Californians at the local level through prevention, education, and community organizing.
Minimum Wage Increase and Provider Paid Sick Leave for IHSS Providers
This year’s budget proposal allocates $119.4 million to implement the state’s minimum wage increase for In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers. The proposal also includes $29.9 million to fund the eight hours of paid sick leave IHSS workers are entitled to starting July 1, 2018.
Provider Rate Increases and Supplemental Payments
The budget proposal includes $649.9 million to fund provider rate increases and supplemental provider payments for both physician and dental services. The goal of these increases is to improve access to Medi-Cal services.
As costs continue to rise for housing, food, medical care, and other essentials, older adults and people with disabilities will struggle to live independently in the community without robust investment in and improvements to existing programs. In the coming months, as the budget process moves forward in the state legislature, we will continue to fight for increased economic security and access to affordable health care for seniors and to keep you informed about any changes to the programs that impact older Californians living in or near poverty.