Budget crisis impacts nursing homes


California's nursing homes are the latest victims of the Sacramento budget stalemate.

Two months without a state budget is beginning to take a painful toll on senior citizens and the nursing homes that care for them.

Carlmont Gardens is a privately owned nursing home and almost half of its residents rely on Medi-Cal reimbursements. But two months after the budget impasse, they haven't received a penny of Medi-Cal.

So the residents are sole victims of the budget stalemate.

"I have no husband, I have no family. I'm completely dependent on Medi-Cal," said Shirley Colombo.

Colombo is 90-years-old. Carlmont Gardens has been her home for the past four years.

Nestled in the hills above Belmont, the skilled nursing facility is known for its quality care.

Like Colombo, 40 percent of residents depend on Medi-Cal subsidies, and that's 40 percent of this nursing home's revenues.

"When the state budget was not passed July 1st, Medi-Cal funding dried up basically," said nursing home owner Sharolyn Kriger.

That's a huge hit for the 74 bed facility and its 100 employees.

"Payday was yesterday and we're tapped out basically," said nursing home owner Bonnie Bertetta.

Bertetta, Kriger and a third partner are owner operators of Carlmont Gardens.

Not only are they the unwitting victims of the budget impasse, they've also been hit by the economic downturn. They asked their bank to extend their line of credit.

"Our bank would not honor that. We've talked to financial institutions about taking out a small business loan. They're not available to us this year," said Kriger.

They've been delinquent on bills, and their vendors have been patient. But for how long?

"We are truly dependent on the kindness of strangers right now to help us get through this," said Kriger.

But state law requires businesses to pay employees on time. An irony is that the state is making nursing homes pay when they're getting nothing from the state.

To help out, Nursing Director Rita Nayyar is not cashing her check. But most employees have had to.

"Some of the employees can't do that because they live from paycheck to paycheck," said Nayyar.

The owners promise that no matter what happens, residents and employees will be cared for.

"We do have to take care of our employees. We do have to take care of residents. That our first priority," said Bertetta.

That makes Colombo feel better. Still, she worries as a helpless hostage of the state budget impasse.

"There's really nothing I can do about it. Nothing I can do about it," said Colombo.

About 65 percent of the nursing home residents rely on Medi-Cal, so the problems phased by this nursing home are not unique.

In 1998, the state created an emergency fund, a rainy day fund for nursing homes caught in the middle of budget stalemates. At first, they fund the nursing homes for two months, but over the years, that fund has dried up. This year it was only for three weeks and they have already spent that money.

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