Fresno, CA Attorney Blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Fighting for the Rights of California Caregivers

Why are in-home supportive services family caregiver benefits necessary?

This past February, Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale) introduced an assembly bill designed to help in-home family caregivers. Such caregivers, like Cathyleen Williams, who nursed her son Caleb from early infancy until his premature death at 9 ½, was left unemployed and unable to cope after her son's death. For all of his short life, he had functioned with "half a heart" because of a condition known as hypoplastic heart syndrome. Although during Caleb's lifetime Cathyleen had been paid minimum wage as an in-home supportive services caregiver, a loophole in California law means she, and all the parents and spouses in parallel situations, can't collect unemployment after their child or spouse dies. She is now joining with Assemblyman Lackey to ensure that the loophole responsible for her misery is closed for others.

Assemblyman Lackey introduced Assembly Bill 1930 to create an In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Family Caregiver Benefits Advisory Committee to examine situations like hers and create a report by Jan. 1, 2018. His goal is to ensure that IHSS providers will eventually have access to employment-based support and productions, including Social Security benefits and state unemployment insurance benefits, instead of being thrown to the wolves at their most vulnerable time.

In the case of Cathyleen Williams and her husband, the fight of their lives to keep their son alive ended this past March when Caleb died of the flu, and to the fight to keep their small grieving family functional began. As she stated, "How do I focus on grieving for my kid when I'm so worried about losing everything we've worked so hard for?" Losing a child after a decade of dealing with his illness has left her out of the employment loop, both emotionally and in terms of employable skills."How do you jump back into a society that you've been out of for 9 1/2 years?" she asks.

If Lackey has his way, all this will change."It's just plain wrong that IHSS providers, who take care of their own children or spouses, are not allowed to participate in Social Security or other benefits," Lackey wrote in an email, saying that "IHSS helps California's most vulnerable population."

The Assembly approved the bill, 77-0, in June and it is now making its way through state Senate committees.

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