Emergency In-Home Supportive Services Bill Clears Key Committee

Legislation from Senator Bill Dodd, D-Napa, that will strengthen In-Home Supportive Services in the event of natural disasters resulting in emergency declarations cleared a key Senate committee Tuesday.

The bill, which was approved by members of the Senate Human Services Committee, comes in the wake of last year’s devastating wildfires and mudslides that exposed systematic shortcomings faced by the state’s most vulnerable residents and the caregivers who assist them.

“We cannot abandon our state’s elderly and infirm residents in times of crisis,” Senator Dodd said. “Nor can we forget about the people who care for them. My bill will safeguard this most vulnerable population while supporting the dedicated men and women who watch over them.”

Senate Bill 1040 contains several important provisions. First, it clarifies that social workers may approve more hours for caregivers while prioritizing funds from the Office of Emergency Services for the repair of dwellings that are damaged or destroyed. It also codifies an expedited paycheck replacement policy for caregivers whose paychecks were lost or destroyed in a disaster. And it requires counties at the next update of their emergency response plans to make assessments that will ensure that services will continue to be provided during times of natural disaster.

The bill was introduced after the 2017 disasters prevented people from receiving continuous service while they were evacuated to emergency shelters. At the same time, caregivers, who earn very low wages, were left without paychecks. They provide personal care such as feeding, bathing, housecleaning and cooking.

“There is currently no statewide approach to ensure people who depend on in-home supportive services get the care they are entitled to during an emergency,” Senator Dodd said. “This bill provides much-needed changes to ensure a continuity of care, even in the event of disasters like the ones we’ve experienced over the past year.”

In-Home Supportive Services is the largest long-term care program in the state, helping about 500,000 low-income people with disabilities, including seniors, live safely at home rather than in costly facilities. A majority of them have incomes of less than $1,000 a month and have $2,000 or less in personal assets.

SB 1040 is sponsored by the California Association of Public Authorities for In-Home Supportive Services and is co-sponsored by the United Domestic Workers/AFSCME. Supporters include the California Commission on Aging.

It was lauded by Casey Rockwood, Napa County’s aging and disability manager.

“Our clients are resilient yet dependent on support services that can fall short during a disaster,” Rockwood said. “For low-income families living with a disability, the loss of electricity for days, the cleanup needed due to ash or the health effects of smoke can be a significant burden. SB1040 recognizes these challenges and provides support for people who need priority attention during difficult times.”

Senator Bill Dodd represents California’s 3rd Senate District, which includes all or portions of Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Yolo, Sacramento, and Contra Costa Counties. You can learn more about Senator Dodd at www.sen.ca.gov/dodd.