Phayuth Yom, 5, is cuddled by caregiver Brian Stanley, left, of Manos Home Care, as his mother, Vuthy Yom, looks on at Yom’s home in Oakland on July
Phayuth Yom, 5, is cuddled by caregiver Brian Stanley, left, of Manos Home Care, as his mother, Vuthy Yom, looks on at Yom's home in Oakland on July 22, 2014. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

OAKLAND -- Brianna Stanley and Vuthy Yom are on the same team except perhaps when it comes to Oakland's proposed minimum wage law.

Stanley, 21, just began caring for Yom's developmentally disabled 5-year-old son for a few hours a day while Yom goes to work to provide for her family. Stanley's job pays $9.85 cents an hour but it would go up to $12.25 next year if Oakland voters, as expected, pass a minimum wage hike on the November ballot.

"That would be a lot of help," said Stanley, who has a young son of her own and loans to repay from a for-profit college she attended.

Yom would be happy for Stanley to get a raise, but she fears that the nonprofit that Stanley works for might not be able to afford to pay it and keep providing the service, which is reimbursed through a state program.

"I think he is really valuable," Yom said of her son who can't speak or walk. "And he deserves all the help he needs."

While minimum wage disputes are often waged publicly by the owners of restaurants and mom and pop shops, Oakland's proposed hike is also facing opposition from government-funded service providers who don't have the luxury of simply raising prices.

Critics of the Oakland initiative include Goodwill Industries, which runs job training programs, Family Bridges, which cares for thousands of frail Asian seniors, and Manos Home Care, the nonprofit that employs Stanley.

The organizations contend that the ballot measure risks harming some of the city's most vulnerable residents because, in many cases, their workers are paid through state reimbursements that won't necessarily rise with Oakland's minimum wage.


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"I'm not saying that we're going to go broke, but the system is very complicated and it's hard to know what's going on," Manos co-founder Kevin Rath said.

State reimbursements for local minimum wage hikes depend on the type of work provided and the state agency that administers the contracts.

Nonprofits such as Manos, which provides in-home care to children with autism, cerebral palsy and other illnesses for several hours a day, are allowed to petition the California Department of Developmental Services for a rate increase when their costs rise. Similar agencies were granted increases when San Jose raised its minimum wage.

However, a 2008 state law precludes nonprofits that provide around-the-clock-care to disabled adults from seeking increased funding to cover a local minimum wage increase, according to department spokeswoman Nancy Lundgren. The department couldn't say how many such workers there are in Oakland.

Programs such as Family Bridges, which rely on Medi-Cal reimbursements to pay employees, also won't receive more money from the state. The California Department of Health Care Services only provides an add-on for minimum wage increases "established by state or federal law," spokesman Anthony Cava said.

Family Bridges CEO Corinne Jan said her organization would have to spend about $1.5 million a year to bump up the hourly salaries of personal care assistants from $9 to $12.25. She could probably make do for a little while, but eventually might have to close care centers and furlough workers. "The cost of living goes up and the need in the community goes up but the reimbursement rates stay the same," she said. "That's the killer part of it."

Reimbursement rates for state-funded care services have been stagnant for a decade, forcing care workers deeper into poverty, officials said. A small increase in 2006 was reversed during the Great Recession. The state did increase reimbursement rates recently to offset the recent statewide minimum wage hike.

"I think we all recognize that there is an issue at the state level," said Jahmese Myres, a spokesman for Lift Up Oakland, a labor-backed coalition that introduced the city's minimum wage measure and collected more than 30,000 signature to get it on the ballot. "We hope the state does step up so that reimbursements start lining up with the needs of workers." City officials are starting to team up with state lawmakers on legislation that could secure funding.

Ken Jacobs, a UC Berkeley economics professor, who studied San Francisco's minimum wage law said higher wages did help some home care providers retain employees and consequently improve care. "There is a strong argument for raising wages in the nonprofit human service sector," he said. "Not only what it means to the workers, but what it means to the services."

Among the several Bay Area cities working on minimum wage increases, Oakland is the only one whose proposal was drafted by an outside group instead of crafted by lawmakers with input from all parties.

In Richmond, service providers dependent on state reimbursements were exempted entirely from a minimum-wage increase. In Berkeley, they received a year reprieve. And San Francisco agreed to exempt job training programs and set aside $8 million over the next two years to help offset the costs of nonprofits that have contracts with the city, said Debbie Lerman of the San Francisco Human services Network which participated in negotiations convened by Mayor Ed Lee.

Oakland hasn't set aside money for nonprofits that will be impacted by the minimum wage hike.

A majority of council members and Mayor Jean Quan have endorsed Oakland's minimum wage measure. A counter proposal that exempts several types of employers including nonprofits and phases in wage increases over several years will go before the council on Tuesday, but isn't expected to pass. Still, at least a couple of council members who are supporting the ballot measure say that Oakland's political establishment shouldn't have sat on the sidelines while the movement to increase minimum wages steamrollered ahead.

"We just dropped the ball," Councilman Noel Gallo said. "It might be one of those things where we have to make some adjustments later on."

Councilmember Libby Schaaf said she backed the measure because it will help thousands of low-income residents, but acknowledged at a recent council discussion that some nonprofits and businesses will struggle to satisfy it. "We are going to have some hardship because we failed to lead," she said.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.