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Protesters plead for halt to care services cuts

on November 13, 2008

Nov. 13–Shouting through megaphones and chanting “No more cuts,” protestors crowded the entrance of the state building in downtown Oakland today. Brandishing multi-colored posters and hand-held signs in Korean, Mandarin, Spanish and English, the protesters stood, or leaned on walkers or sat in wheelchairs to deliver their message to the office of State Senator Don Perata: more cuts to human services are not the answer to the state’s budget woes.

“These are not extras we are asking for,” cried one protester. “These are basic services people need to survive.”

The protestors said they were worried the state may try to resolve the current $11.2 billion budget shortfall by severely cutting or eliminating programs and services for lower income and persons with disabilities. Medi-Cal adult dental care and In-Home Supportive Services were two specific programs on everyone’s mind today.

Deng Ze He, a smartly-dressed elderly Asian man who spoke to the crowd in Mandarin, said through an interpreter that even with Medi-Cal, he and his wife struggle every month to come up with $25 to $30 for their medications. But his big concern, he said, would be the elimination of his dental benefits. “I have dental problems that I suffer with every minute, day and night,” said Deng Ze He. “Please save dental services for adults.”

Under budget proposals released by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger November 6th, adult dental benefits, considered an “optional benefit, ” would be eliminated.

Rosa Castillejos, who had a stroke 3 years ago, said she now depends on an in-home care worker to help her with her daily routine. Unable to balance herself even to get in and out of the shower, Castillejos said, she worries about how she would do simple domestic tasks, like bathing and cooking, without in-home assistance. “I cannot do so many things,” she said softly in Spanish. , “Running my house, going out for a walk, are impossible without help.”

Local health, education and human services organizations helped amass the hundred or so protesters. Jessica Rothhaar, program manager for Health Access, a statewide nonprofit advocacy group, told the crowd, bystanders and state workers coming and going during the lunchtime hour, that cuts without revenue increases were the wrong solution.

The protest was aimed at getting Perata’s attention. The senator and other state leaders are in Sacramento, negotiating a fix for the seemingly impossible budget shortfall. After cutting and slicing the budget back in September, in order to get it passed, legislators face the daunting task of finding more places to cut. But unlike prior negotiations, said Perata’s press secretary, Alicia Trost, “we won’t agree to new cuts without securing new revenue sources. It is the only way to prevent complete decimation of the services we need.”

Trost says legislators are on a tight timeline, hoping to have a package ready for a vote on November 23rd. Among the ideas being discussed are a sales tax increase, personal income tax increase, vehicle license fee increase and per-package alcohol tax. “Everything is on the table,” Trost said.

“We have to be realistic,” said Maurice Carcamo, of Hayward. Carcamo, an articulate man in his mid-fifties, hunches over, due to a genetic form of arthritis of the spine. He has a degree in business administration, he said, and worked in California’s Small Business Administration for eighteen years. He struggles, pulling his head up to make eye contact as he spoke. “Taxes have to go higher,” he said. “It may be hard for us, but we all have to do a little bit of sacrifice. we have no choice.”||||||||||||

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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