Blind, Disabled San Diegans Will Pay the Price

San Diegans reacted Sunday to news that California's fiscal future had lurched yet another step toward oblivion.

State Controller John Chiang announced he could no longer make payments for services to disabled and blind people who need the money to pay for rent and food.  Payments would most likely have to be stopped by Feb. 1.

"Delaying these payments will hurt real families," Chiang said.  About one million people would be affected by the non-payments.

Access to Independence is an independent living center that been around since 1976.  It gets about 35-37 percent of it's total budget from the state.  That works out to roughly $56,000 a month.

Louis Frick is the executive director of Access to Independence.  He says, this is really going to hurt people who need help. 

"They're very tight budgeted number one.  Number two, you miss a check and all of a sudden the likelihood of losing your home, losing the apartment or shared living space you're in,"  Frick said.  "It's extremely frustrating."

San Diegans who read this story on shared their stories of hardship Sunday.

“I'm 66 years old and disabled. I worked my entire life. I paid into the system for 50 years. It was with great despair that I had to stop working but after 6 heart attacks, a stroke, brain, prostate, eye, hand, spine and vascular surgery, I had to stop working,” ‘Taxman 2008’ said.  “Living on Social Security is impossible and since the State is no longer paying my Medicare part B or D, my check was reduced by $126 a month. California Medi-Cal claims that all you need to live on in San Diego is $620 a month. Anything you make over that is considered excess and available to use for your Medical bills.”Wow, I know we are in a real rut but man we need to take care of our own no matter what. We really need to get back on our feet. I know things are soon to come around.. This is a pretty upsetting.

“I have a sister who has rheumatoid arthritis, and can not work,” Daniel said.  “Some days she can barely get out of bed! To strip her of her benefits would be cruel.”

“I am permanently and severely disabled enough that I am unable to work most jobs, even office desk jobs,” David said.  I am not looking forward to this because my income is entirely dependent upon SSI”

Education will be spared from the delayed payments, but California's money meltdown has been long in the making.

"The last day the state had a positive cash balance was July 12, 2007 -- a year and a half ago," Chiang said.

Since that time, California has been using internal borrowing to pay the bills. Barring a quick deal at the capitol, taxpayers will likely receive IOUs instead of tax refunds this spring.

Lawmakers have about two weeks to strike a deal with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or the cash crisis will expand to even more people.

Thousands of construction projects around the state are shutting down because state bond money has dried up.

"If it continues for a number of months into next year, it could be 200,000 jobs lost," said State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

The board that oversees those projects voted to free up funding on Friday while top legislative leaders joined Schwarzenegger for another round of budget talks.

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