While lawmakers squabbled Monday over a new state budget, Lolly Birlin went grocery shopping with money she borrowed from a friend.
Things are always tight, said Birlin, a 42-year-old Ventura woman. But the last nine days have been especially trying.
She receives $1,150 at the beginning of each month to take care of her severely disabled daughter, Jalina, 14. This month, the state check never came.
"The cupboard was definitely bare," Birlin said Monday after spending the $50 she borrowed. "What I got will last us about a week."
For Birlin and hundreds of other Ventura County residents, the state's budget stalemate can only be measured in such terms. Each day that a compromise eludes the Democratic Legislature and Republican Gov. George Deukmejian brings more hardship and uncertainty, county social workers say.
Paychecks to people who provide in-home care for 1,350 disabled county residents--often their friends and family--have been delayed. And, if the state budget is not pared and balanced this week, 8,000 local families on welfare may also miss their mid-July checks.
The county Board of Supervisors will decide today whether to approve a $2.5-million emergency loan to make those Aid to Families With Dependent Children payments July 15.
Other hardships created by the state's delay are seen mostly by city and county budget analysts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars collected by the state in sales taxes and motor vehicle fees are overdue. At the county Public Social Services Agency alone, about $700,000 to pay for administration of state programs has not arrived, officials say.
The human face of the budget crisis is best seen in the In-Home Supportive Services Program, which Birlin depends on. She and hundreds of others earn subsistence wages by helping disabled people stay in their homes, said program coordinator Shirley Bush.
"At $4.25 an hour, these people are pretty much living hand-to-mouth anyway," Bush said. "It's very unfortunate they have to go this long without their money."
Bush said she knows of no disabled person who has been left without care. "But we are starting to run into hardship cases, where people have quit their jobs to take care of family members, and this is their sole source of income."
Calls for help began last week, Bush said.
"At first they were satisfied that the budget would be signed soon, but now they're angry," she said. "And there isn't much we can tell them. They can't understand why the government is picking on the poor and the elderly. The governor's office should realize that these people need their money."
Bush said her office began referring complaints to the governor last week. "But most
of them don't have the money for a phone call," she said.
An outraged Birlin said she called anyway.
Birlin, whose $1,150 state check makes up the bulk of her income, said she called county officials and state Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) a week ago Monday. The next day she phoned Deukmejian.
"I told them, 'I can't believe the governor would let his people live like this,' " she said. "I told them, 'I have two children I have to feed, my husband just died.' The man in the governor's office said, 'Unfortunately, it's people like you that suffer the most, but there aren't any emergency funds.' He told me to call David Roberti and Willie Brown."
It was futile, she decided, to try to reach Roberti or Brown, majority leaders of the state Senate and the Assembly.
"I'm really angry," Birlin said. "The next day was the Fourth of July, and all these lawmakers were going home with their families and planning big picnics of fun and games. But I don't have anything. The people who can't defend themselves are the ones that get cut off."
A college-educated family counselor, Birlin has personally cared for her quadriplegic and mentally retarded daughter for years, but her situation turned desperate last August when her psychologist husband, Jerry, died suddenly.
Since then, she has raised Jalina and a second daughter, 16-year-old Jennifer, by herself.
Now her rent is overdue, her phone may be disconnected and she has enough food to last a week. "I can't understand how this could happen."
Sacramento STALEMATE: No progress is reported in breaking the spending impasse. A3