Many laid-off state workers wont return

An estimated 10,000 state workers who lost their jobs during the fight over the 2008-09 budget are likely to be without state work until next June, although the heads of state agencies have been told privately they will have leeway over rehiring some workers.

The laid-off temporary workers, who include retired annuitants and seasonal workers, lost their jobs following Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s July 31 executive order. The governor issued the directive as a cost-cutting measure nearly a month after the budget failed to be approved by the July 1 deadline for the new fiscal year. The budget finally was approved last week, although a major piece of the budget – tapping revenue derived from the state lottery – was pushed into next year to go before voters on a statewide ballot.

Publicly, there has been no indication of the job outlook for the laid-off workers, other than that their situation is unlikely to change through the end of the effective date of the governor’s executive order. But

 Another piece of the administration’s order to cut state workers’ pay to the federal hourly minimum of $6.55 was never put into effect, because state Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, refused to implement it, contending that it was illegal. The controller’s decision prompted a legal fight with the administration. A hearing on the issue is scheduled Oct. 29 in Sacramento federal court, said Chiang spokesman Garin Casaleggio.

Chiang also has begun mailing out billions of dollars in delayed payments that had been held up as a result of the budget impasse. Billions of dollars in payments have been hung up, and within 48 hours of the budget’s passage Chiang began making more than $3 billion in payments to Medi-Cal, the state-federal health program for the poor.

“Basically, this is a $12 billion total. It includes all payments from July, August and (part of) September,” Casaleggio said. The checks are cut as claims – or requests for payments – come in from state departments and vendors.

State Controller John Chiang has sent a letter to State agencies and departments urging them to prioritize backlogged claims to ensure California nursing homes, day care operators, community colleges, small businesses and others that have suffered during this budget stalemate are first in line to be paid.

“This record-setting budget stalemate has been an enormous burden on so many small businesses and health care providers who care for our most vulnerable Californians – the sick, elderly, disabled, and children,” Chiang noted. “I will quickly pay all backlogged claims and I am asking State agencies for their assistance to ensure that we get payments into the hands of those who most desperately need them as quickly as possible.”

Chiang, in his letter to state agencies and vendors, said he hoped for a “prompt turnaround of these delayed claims.”
“Prioritize your claim workload, sending the highest-priority claims on a workflow basis. Please be diligent in identifying those truly critical claims that will be placed at the front of the work queue. Because you are most aware of the vulnerable populations that you serve and the special circumstances that arise within your realm of responsibility, your cooperation is essential to the orderly payment of claims that most deserve expedited attention,” he wrote.

During the budget impasse, Chiang continued to make payments to:

• Federally mandated services such as Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP), and In-Home Support Services.
• Debt service and other payments required by the State Constitution.
• Payroll for state employees covered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
• Vendor payments for services provided in the last fiscal year.
• Expenses with ongoing appropriations from the Legislature, including Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, income tax refunds and payments on claims for unclaimed property.
Chiang said he had been unable to make payments to
• School districts for categorical programs such as special education and remedial summer school, community colleges, local governments and other entities not included in the above parameters.
• Vendors for services provided after July 1.
• Salaries and per diem of state elected officials and their appointed staff.

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