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Local Health Care

In-Home Caregivers Struggle To Make Ends Meet On San Bernardino County Wages

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In-home caregivers are in the middle of a contract fight with the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.  KVCR's Benjamin Purper has more.

Victoria Ruiz is an in-home care provider for her daughter Andrea, who has cerebral palsy.

Because Andrea has seizures throughout the night, Victoria is always on call.

Ruiz: “I actually work for my daughter more than 24 hours a day because she has seizures when she's asleep. So I have to sleep in the room with her, and when she has a seizure I have to tend to her and then take her to the restroom because she has to go to the restroom. So I'm constantly with her, 24 hours a day, and I'm not getting paid for 24 hours a day.” 

Ruiz works for In-Home Supportive Services, a Medi-Cal program that provides care to elderly and disabled people. And now, the union representing IHSS workers is negotiating with San Bernardino County for higher salaries.

Right now, IHSS workers in San Bernardino County make minimum wage. Kim Evon, Executive Vice President of the caregivers’ union, says it’s time for that to change. She wants the Board of Supervisors to approve a new contract with higher wages.

Evon: “For too long, it has been convenient to try to balance the budget on the backs of caregivers and people they provide care for. I think this has been a workforce that people see as a budget-line item, and if we can keep it really low, why don't we do that? And what we're saying today is, this is not business as usual, you can't continue to act like there's not a problem, you can't continue to sit there and occupy a seat of leadership when you have real problems, real challenges facing your constituents and you need to start taking some action.”

County spokesman David Wert says the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors are currently offering the state minimum wage increase, from 11 dollars an hour to 12. That’s about an 8 percent increase, which the county says is more than fair.

The union says IHSS workers need more than that just to make ends meet.

Victoria Ruiz says it’s unfair to be paid minimum wage for a job as difficult as hers.

Ruiz: “There are other counties that are making more money than what we're making for doing the same work that they do. And I feel like they're saying that we, they don't have the money for us to get a raise and that's insulting to me because it makes me feel like what I'm doing is not important.”

Los Angeles County Supervisors recently voted to raise their IHSS workers’ wages to 15 dollars an hour by 2020 and will keep their wages 1 dollar above the minimum wage thereafter.

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