Today marks an important step in the political process that could give people with disabilities more control over their lives and and allow the workforce providing these services to join together in a union to improve their jobs and the program. AB 1244 (Chesbro) is up for a vote in the Senate Committee on Human Services today. We need to make sure the committee stands with people with disabilities and workers who want self-determination and votes yes on the bill.
Under the Self-Determination program:
The Senate Committee on Human Services is holding a vote on the bill today. We need to make sure the committee does the right thing for people with disabilities and votes yes on this important bill.
When Jerry Brown replaced Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California, he inherited a state with a $26 billion deficit and near financial collapse. In response, Governor Brown proposed a mix of tax extensions and budget cuts to close the deficit and position California to rebuild. Among the painful cuts proposed, people with developmental disabilities were targeted with reductions of over 20% of their services.
The member leaders of the California SEIU DD Council rallied to the defense of the people they serve. We called an emergency meeting to develop a winning strategy and tactics to protect the services our consumers need.
We worked in the large DD coalition with advocates, consumer and family groups, provider organizations, and others to discuss strategy and messaging for the DD community. We testified at key legislative hearings and lobbied. We wrote their legislators and newspapers. We reached out to advocates and provider groups all across California to plan rallies and other actions together.
In my part of the state, we held a rally at the San Luis Obispo County Courthouse and got some excellent media coverage during the evening news.
The outpouring of concern from the California DD community was overwhelming. As more people become aware of the threat to services, more people began to show up. The February 10 Senate hearing on the DD budget witnessed one of the largest crowds ever to show up for a hearing in the state’s history. The hearing room overflowed, the overflow rooms overflowed, the Capitol Police had to close off part of the Capitol because of the throngs of people with developmental disabilities, their families, providers and direct support workers. People came and spoke their truth. And they were heard.
A week later, the Legislature dramatically reduced the level of cuts to the DD system.
Assemblywoman Holly Mitchel (D-Los Angeles) highlighted the powerful impact the testimonies and rallies had on the Legislature.
“You can see flat statistics on a piece of paper,” Mitchell said, “but then you hear a mother talk about ‘I am a parent of an adult with a developmental disability, and my husband and I lay awake at night wondering what will happen.’ … I truly believe all of those witnesses and the thousands of witness communications we received made a significant difference.”
Now our members are focused on working with the Administration on minimizing the damage from the remaining budget reductions and in fighting to support the Governor’s revenue package – so deeper cuts can be avoided. We are proud to have done our share in protecting the rights of people with developmental disabilities and the services they rely on.
Claire Verbinski has “been working at East Bay Innovations for 11 years as a Community Living Assistant, which is at the bottom of the career ladder. I want to learn more, but I also have a lot to offer with my all years of experience.”
Now Claire can have it both ways, thanks to a landmark $75,000 grant from the Alameda County Workforce Investment Board to provide career advancement training for 30 EBI employees. East Bay Innovations is a San Leandro-based nonprofit agency that assists persons with developmental disabilities to live independent lives. Right after a ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate the award, the workers filled out their ACWIB-required paperwork so that training could start immediately.
The grant is groundbreaking because it marks the first time any of California’s 49 WIB’s has funded an incumbent worker training program in the developmental disabilities (DD) field. Upon completing the 70-hour training, participating EBI service providers will receive a $1 per hour raise immediately as well as strong consideration for promotion into open positions.
Since the mid 1990s, states have been experimenting with Self-Determination, Self-Directed Services, and other forms of consumer direction for people with developmental disabilities. In these options, the person with a disability gains control over their service budget, and they make decisions (with supporters that they choose) over what services they purchase to meet their needs. It’s been tough getting there in California. Twelve years ago the state started a self-determination pilot project, and today it still has only 140 participants statewide, out of over 100,000 adults with I/DD.
SEIU has been a leading voice in California to make self-direction available to all people with I/DD in California. In 2005 we partnered with Disability Rights California to pass legislation to expand self-direction statewide. After that got stuck in bureaucracy, California started looking at a scaled-back version called Individual Choice Budget (ICB). SEIU is continuing to advocate for an expanded program with maximum flexibility for families and people with disabilities to control their services and their lives.
SEIU members believe consumer control is in the best interest of both the individuals and the workers who provide supports. We will continue to stand up to those who oppose change because they benefit from the status quo, such as the providers of the current service mix who have always found reasons to oppose consumer control. We will continue to push for services that allow people to make their own decisions about how to live their lives.