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The California legislature is still struggling to close a $26 billion budget gap. One endangered program is in-home support services for more than 400,000 elderly and disabled. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting those services for all but the most severe cases, which could force many who are now independent to move into nursing homes.

Gina Diamante of member station KVCR in San Bernardino has the story of one of those seniors.

GINA DIAMANTE: Flora Mae King turned 102 last Sunday. She still lives alone, but she says she couldn't do it if not for an in-home support services worker who comes in five days a week to do the things she can't manage anymore.

Ms. FLORA MAE KING: I could boil some water, boil a egg maybe.

DIAMANTE: King's one-bedroom apartment is decorated with puzzles she put together over the years.

Ms. KING: Maybe that's why my hands are worn out. You know, jigsaw puzzles, crocheting and I sewed - I used to sew, too. I took sewing, yes. I did a lot of things to prepare myself, but what good is it now when my hands are worn out?

DIAMANTE: King suffers from arthritis, shingles and carpal tunnel syndrome, but until two years ago, she was still driving.

Ms. KING: Yeah, they tell me I may not ever get over it. I'm so old now, if they take the service that I'm getting away, what would I do?

DIAMANTE: In-Home Support Services, or IHSS, gives her 60 hours a month of extra help. Her IHSS aide does the housework and the grocery shopping. She also gets King to doctor appointments. King's care manager, Lorna Lovias(ph), says there's more to IHSS than just running errands.

Ms. LORNA LOVIAS (Care Manager, IHSS): They help this person survive. They remind this person to take their medicine. They help them to remember they have a doctor's appointment. Without the In-Home Supportive Services, she's at the risk for being institutionalized, which would even cost more.

DIAMANTE: King has 32 grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but living with them is not a possibility.

Ms. KING: They're having babies so fast and the kids are still at home, they wouldn't have any room for me.

DIAMANTE: Her doctors also don't want her to move in with family.

Ms. KING: They're afraid I'll get pneumonia. That's just why they want me to stay away from crowds.

DIAMANTE: She can't afford assisted living - it's double what she's paying right now. At this moment, she says she's not sure what she'll do if IHSS is cut.

Ms. KING: Whatever I could do for myself I would do, but what could I do? Oh boy. I hate to think what I would do. Hope I could find something in Tent City.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DIAMANTE: For NPR News, I'm Gina Diamante.

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