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L.A.'s Disabled Community Backs Tax Hike Extensions, Decries Welfare Cuts

Dan Watson |
March 2, 2011 | 2:01 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Jerry Brown speaking in L.A. on Feb. 25. Democrats have struck down many of his proposed cuts, but not all of them. (Paresh Dave / Neon Tommy)
Jerry Brown speaking in L.A. on Feb. 25. Democrats have struck down many of his proposed cuts, but not all of them. (Paresh Dave / Neon Tommy)

Rallying outside the Governor’s Office in downtown Los Angeles, a crowd of people with disabilities put last week a face on how the proposed state budget cuts might affect their independent way of life.

Members of Communities Actively Living Independent and Free (CALIF) chanted “No more cuts!” and “All I want to say is they don’t really care about us!” as they came down Spring St., before stopping outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s local office.

The group of about 30 disabled people, many in wheelchairs, gathered around for chants, songs and speeches, before four participants dramatized “the way the state has been stripping us of our services” by stripping off their coats in the rain.

Social service facilities are bracing for major cuts.

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, which slashes $12.5 billion in state spending, significant cuts would be made to the In-House Supportive Services (IHSS) program and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). 

IHSS is a California service providing people who are blind, disabled or over the age of 65 with personal assistance and in-home support.

The budget proposes to cut 8.4 percent to all IHSS recipient hours, which, according to CALIF, would mean more than 380,000 recipients would lose hours of care they depend on to live at home.

“If the eight percent cut goes through, they (disabled) will be at risk of institutionalization,” said Terrance Henson, the rally’s organizer and a systems change advocate for CALIF. “They might have to be put in a nursing home. And these are people who have jobs. Who work and pay taxes. And because the cuts will happen, they won’t be able to live at home.”

SSI is a federal government program that provides monthly payments to low-income persons, including the disabled. Currently, the standard monthly payment is $845, but would be cut to $830 under the proposed budget.

In 2009, the monthly payments fell from $907 to $870. 

“As the price of living increases, the amount of income they receive is decreasing. It’s a marvel already how people live on a fixed income,” said Henson.

Randy Horton, 51, with cerebral palsy, was one IHSS and SSI recipient afraid of the cut consequences last Friday.

“I rely fully on IHSS attendants for my personal-care needs, including dressing, grooming, feeding, marketing, and more,” Horton said, using synthesized speech technology from his wheelchair. “Reduction in my IHSS hours would severely impact the quality of my life and endanger my health and safety.”

Gordon Cardona also communicated from his Dyna Write synthesized speech computer.

“My (IHSS) assistant hasn’t been paid since October,” he typed onto his screen.

“People with disabilities, they need these services and they need people to advocate for them,” said Henson, who has dedicated his life to the physically and mentally disabled. “Because sometimes their voices get a little drowned out, so I’m here for them.”

CALIF’s mission is two-fold: support Gov. Brown’s proposal to extend tax hikes, while denouncing cuts to social services.

Charlie Kelsey, a member of the Tea Party, felt strongly enough against CALIF’s cause on Friday to yell opposing chants from across the street.

“More budget cuts!” and “End tax slavery!” she chanted.

“We’re going off a cliff right now as far as our fiscal imbalance, and it’s largely done because of our overspending,” Kelsey said.

Kelsey denounced the rally as “all self-interest.”

Small government, and less reliance on the government, is mandatory, she said.

“We’ve done all this intervention for the sake of helping the common small man, and all we’ve done is fuck him over,” she said. “It’s the same thing every time. Intervention doesn’t work.”

To reach Dan Watson, click here. Follow him on Twitter @danwatson7.



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