Lawmakers call late IHSS paychecks “an abomination”
Too many IHSS providers know what it’s like to wait days, weeks, or months for a late paycheck. We know what it’s like to set our household budget for the month, only to have it thrown off completely when our check doesn’t come on time or at all. In May, we told our elected leaders “enough is enough.”
After hearing testimony and comments from UDW caregivers and home care recipients at the Capitol, the state legislature’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to begin an audit of the IHSS payroll system to find out what’s wrong and how to fix it.
Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider from El Dorado County, testified before the committee. “Last November, I submitted my IHSS timesheet for the first 15 days of the month and waited for my paycheck,” said Claire. “I waited days and then weeks, unable to get an answer about the delay.”
Lawmakers were visibly outraged to learn that payroll issues put our ability to provide for our families at risk and put the care of recipients in jeopardy. They called paycheck delays “wage theft” and “an abomination.” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) was among those standing alongside UDW to secure an audit. “Home care workers are constantly treated like second-class citizens. They are constantly having to fight for the basic rights we believe everybody should have,” she said during the hearing.
The audit has now begun, and the state has seven months to complete the audit and report back with their findings.
UDW will provide updates on our work to fix IHSS timesheets and paychecks at www.udwa.org.
UDW recently discovered that numerous IHSS providers were still awaiting their June 15th – 30th paycheck. When we demanded answers from the state, we were told the longer than normal wait times were due in part to the 4th of July holiday. The holiday caused more timesheets than usual to arrive at the timesheet processing facility in Chico on July 5th, which slowed their processing and delayed paychecks across the state. As of July 15th, many providers are still waiting for their pay.
Workers in most professions – doctors, store clerks, even politicians – typically know when they will be paid for their work. But that is not the case for IHSS providers. The antiquated IHSS payroll system relies on paper timesheets, leaving the timeliness of our paychecks in the hands of the mail system, the timesheet processing facility, and the state. Even before this recent mass delay, all of us had heard of or experienced delays in our paychecks, and those delays hurt our ability to put food on the table, pay our rent, and stay current on our bills.
Late paychecks make it tough for providers to plan, and leave us feeling financially insecure. They also hurt IHSS recipients, like Crystal Mourad from Butte County who fears she will lose caregivers if they can’t count on a timely paycheck. “I depend on my caregivers,” said Crystal. “They’re not a luxury. They’re a necessity.”
IHSS providers deserve the security of knowing when we will be paid for our work, and home care recipients deserve stable, quality care. It is past time for the state to upgrade the payroll system, and move away from paper timesheets. Delays like these are the prime reason UDW caregivers fought for and won an audit of the IHSS payroll system.
The audit has begun, and will take months to complete. However, our efforts have pushed the state to announce the establishment of a pilot electronic timesheet program that will begin in April 2017, with the goal of expanding the program statewide in June 2017. This program could end timesheet and paycheck delays once and for all.
The pilot program is good news, but we will continue to urge the state to fix this issue sooner than next year. UDW will provide updates on this new initiative as we receive them.
Yesterday, UDW caregivers joined Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez at a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing at the Capitol to request an audit of the IHSS timesheet system. After hearing testimony and comments from providers and home care recipients, the committee voted unanimously (11 to 0) to begin an audit of the system to find out what’s wrong, so it can be fixed.
Far too many IHSS providers know what it’s like to wait days, weeks, or months for a late paycheck. We know what it’s like to set our household budget for the month, only to have it thrown off completely when our check doesn’t come on time or at all. Too many of us have been put in a financial bind, struggling to pay our rent and bills on time, because we weren’t paid timely.
The current IHSS timesheet system has been a sore spot for thousands of IHSS providers. The outdated and flawed system has negatively impacted caregivers, and even led to 65,000 missing timesheets in Los Angeles in 2015.
Yesterday, we stood together to proclaim: “Enough is enough!”
During the hearing, Assemblymember Gonzalez expressed the frustrations of thousands of IHSS caregivers. She likened providers dealing with late paychecks or no paychecks at all to wage theft. She urged committee members to treat IHSS providers with the same dignity and respect as other workers by approving the audit, so we can fix the system and ensure providers are paid timely and correctly.
UDW caregiver Claire Kaufman from El Dorado County testified before the committee of State Senators and Assemblymembers. “Last November, I submitted my IHSS timesheet for the first 15 days of the month and waited for my paycheck,” said Claire. “I waited days and then weeks, unable to get an answer about the delay.”
When Claire finally spoke to someone about her late paycheck, she was told the system that reads our timesheets was unable to decipher a ‘6’ on her timesheet. Like many of us have done in the past, Claire had to request a duplicate timesheet, resubmit the duplicate, and then wait on her check. By the time Claire was finally paid, it was almost Christmas.
“Once I caught up on my bills, there wasn’t much left over to make it a merry Christmas for my daughters,” Claire said. “If my union hadn’t given my family a basket of food, we wouldn’t have even had Christmas dinner.”
Gregory Barney, an IHSS provider from Merced County echoed Claire’s frustrations. When he stood up to give public comment he told the committee about a paycheck he has yet to receive from last year. He explained that he wanted to speak up during the hearing, because late paychecks were too frequent a problem for too many providers. “I’m retired military,” said Gregory. “I understand there will be hiccups sometimes. I let it go last year, but then it happened again.”
Crystal Mourad is an IHSS care recipient in Butte County. She has four IHSS providers she relies on to keep her healthy and safe in her home. She attended the hearing to speak on their behalf, and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who rely on IHSS caregivers.
Crystal explained that she has a provider who is still awaiting a check that should have arrived in January. “When my caregivers don’t get paid, I lose my caregivers,” said Crystal explaining that it is tough for IHSS providers to work without a reliable paycheck. “I depend on my caregivers,” she continued. “They’re not a luxury. They’re a necessity.”
The committee was visibly upset to hear that IHSS providers have to deal with delayed paychecks, putting our ability to provide for our families’ at risk and putting the care of recipients like Crystal in jeopardy. Their visible frustration led to a unanimous vote of approval of the audit of the IHSS timesheet system.
Now, the state auditors have seven months to complete the audit and report back with their findings.