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 The outdated and flawed system has negatively impacted caregivers, and even led to 65,000 missing timesheets in Los Angeles in 2015.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.