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Federal judge continues to block California's cuts to in-home care

To balance the budget, California lawmakers had planned $100 million in cuts to in-home care for the elderly and disabled, but a federal judge is blocking the reductions because of a lawsuit.

January 20, 2012|By Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento -- A federal judge will continue blocking millions of dollars in cuts to in-home care for the elderly and the disabled, parties to a lawsuit over the services said Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken had temporarily halted the cuts in December. The $100 million in reductions to home aid, built into the state budget in case revenue did not match projections, were to have kicked in this month.

Advocates for the disabled said the cuts would have hurt more than 300,000 people, and they teamed with the union that represents caregivers to sue the state. Government officials argued that the cuts were unavoidable because of the budget crisis.

The judge, who presided over a hearing on the matter in Oakland on Thursday, said she was prepared to keep the cuts at bay, according to both sides. Melinda Bird, senior counsel for the advocate group Disability Rights California, said Wilken directed the parties to reach a settlement.

Bird praised Wilken, saying the funding is "what we need to ensure people are not at risk and can remain safely at home."

The state will have to make other cuts to compensate, according to H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the Department of Finance. Legal challenges have frustrated state officials trying to balance the budget in a troubled economy.

The case before Wilken "is another example of solutions that have been approved by the Legislature and blocked by the courts," said Palmer.

chris.megerian@latimes.com

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