Yesterday, Governor Newsom released the May Revision to the California Budget, which includes significant and devastating cuts to the programs low-income older adults depend on for their health and economic well-being. The May Revise is the Governor’s plan to address the $54 billion state deficit that has resulted from the COVID-19 public health crisis. But the proposed cuts will only exacerbate the profound impact the disease has on low-income older Californians.

Older Adults at Greatest Risk

Eighty percent of those who have died from COVID-19 are 65 and over, with older Black, Latinx, and Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders the most impacted in the state. Older adults living in long-term care facilities are at particular risk. While over one third of the COVID-19 deaths in California have been residents of long-term care facilities, California has yet to develop a statewide plan to protect residents in these settings two months into this crisis.

Cuts to Programs that Help People Remain in their Homes
Nonetheless, the Governor’s proposal will entirely eliminate Community-Based Adult Services (CBAS) and the Multi-Purpose Senior Services Program (MSSP), and makes deep cuts to In-Home Supportive Services – these are the three most critical Medi-Cal funded programs in the state that help older adults and people with disabilities remain living in their homes. Without them, low-income older adults will be forced to receive care in nursing homes, needlessly putting their lives at risk. This is unacceptable.

Cuts to Essential Medi-Cal Programs

The May Revise also proposes to eliminate the planned expansion of the Medi-Cal program to 35,000 older adults and people with disabilities with income between 123% and 138% of the federal poverty. It abandons the proposal to provide Medi-Cal coverage to eligible older adults regardless of immigration status, and the newly enacted law to help older adults retain continuous Medi-Cal coverage and not flip on and off the program month to month. It also cuts recently restored adult dental benefits, reinstates Medi-Cal estate recovery, and cuts the state supplement to the SSI grant back to 2009 levels. In sum, the proposed budget would have catastrophic consequences for low-income older adults, leaving them more vulnerable to hunger, homelessness, social isolation, illness, and death during this crisis.

We Cannot Sacrifice the Lives of Low-Income Older Adults
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the state and the country in a crisis unlike any we have faced in generations, and we recognize the incredibly painful choices the Governor now faces. This is why we are advocating each and every day to convince Washington to provide immediate federal relief to California and all states. But if that relief does not come, we cannot sacrifice the lives of seniors or any of our low-income communities. It is vital that our budget reflect who and what we value as a community. Justice in Aging’s sole job is to ensure that low-income older adults can age in dignity, and we will not stand idle as programs are eliminated that will cost lives. And we know that our network of strong advocates will be right there with us fighting back.

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