UDW caregivers and caregivers from SEIU 2015 were in Los Angeles yesterday to demand answers and action from the state. During a Senate Human Services oversight hearing at City Hall, we voiced our concerns and frustrations with the current outdated and cumbersome IHSS payroll system. Home care providers and recipients made the case for fixing the process once and for all.
“Inconsistency is the problem,” testified Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider for her daughter in El Dorado County. “Not knowing how much I will be paid next time I send in a timesheet, or if I will be paid at all is the problem.”
This year, the State announced an electronic timesheet option would be offered in 2017. While this is a great step in the right direction, it was critical that we demand reforms to the paper timesheet process during the hearing.
Cynthia Wilson, an IHSS provider from Madera County, was evicted from her home in January because she didn’t receive a paycheck from October to December of last year. Cynthia and her 14-year-old grandson were forced to sleep in her car while she worked to afford and find a new apartment with an eviction on her record.
“I was finally able to save up enough to rent a house for me and my grandson,” said Cynthia during her testimony. “Things worked out this time, but I worry about the next time this happens. Many IHSS caregivers like me are just one late paycheck away from homelessness.”
Unfortunately, Cynthia’s story is not unique. Too many IHSS providers have felt the negative impact of waiting for a delayed paycheck or timesheet. Many of us know what it’s like to get behind on our bills or have to pay late fees, because our checks arrive days, weeks, or months later than expected.
Lizet Ibarra and her mother work as providers for Lizet’s younger sister in Orange County. Lizet attended the hearing to advocate for her mom who stayed home to care for her sister. “For the past year and a half my mom’s checks have been delayed 15 to 20 days,” said Lizet. “That puts my mom in a hardship with her HOA fees, late charge fees, and mortgage fees. In the past two months she has not received one check. This is what gets me more agitated.”
Senator Mike McGuire, Senator Connie Leyva, and Senator Richard Roth listened to our stories, and then questioned representatives from the Department of Social Services about the current payroll process. “Making sure people are paid for the work that they do is fundamental,” said Senator Leyva.
Senator McGuire was concerned about the amount of providers who deal with paycheck delays each month. “No private employer would be allowed to delay pay for employees,” he said. “The state can’t be delaying checks to 14,000 IHSS providers.”
Our union is committed to working with the State to update the payroll process. “The payroll system for IHSS providers is rife with problems and unacceptable in its current state,” said UDW Legislative Director Kristina Bas Hamilton. “We proposed a number of recommendations – some are sweeping in scope while others are simpler, common sense “fixes” – that we believe will go a long way to make the system more efficient.”
Among our suggestions were switching from semimonthly to biweekly pay periods, and allowing providers to download our timesheets to cut down on the time spent waiting for them to arrive via mail.
During her testimony, Claire Kaufman who has experienced late or incorrect paychecks three times in the last year, aptly summed up the importance of fixing the payroll system. “We work hard for our clients,” she said. “Like any other workers, we need timely and correct paychecks. Our families can’t afford anything less, and we don’t deserve anything less.”
The state recently announced its plan to offer an option for providers to submit timesheets electronically instead of using the current paper system. Electronic timesheets could help alleviate the stress, headaches, and hardships that come when IHSS providers are forced to wait for late paychecks. A new system could ensure we are paid correctly and on time.
In this proposal, providers would be able to access and submit timesheets using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The state plans to first conduct a pilot to test the new electronic system in one or two counties beginning in May 2017. If this pilot is successful, the goal would be to roll out the electronic option to all IHSS caregivers by July 1, 2017.
UDW is working closely with the state as they develop this new process. We want to ensure that electronic timesheets are an improvement over paper timesheets. The best way to do so is to work with caregivers, so UDW will host a small focus group of IHSS providers in early December to test the new technology and give the state feedback.
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.
Late paychecks and timesheets impact our ability to provide for ourselves and our families. Many UDW caregivers have expressed frustrations with the IHSS timesheet process, and our union heard us. We’ve been working on ways to update the process and make it easier for IHSS providers to receive our hard earned paychecks in a timely manner.
Right now, we’re working on approval of an audit of the IHSS timesheet system that would determine what is and what isn’t working, and how it can work better for providers. A legislative hearing will be held at the Capitol on May 25th, and lawmakers will decide whether to move forward with the audit.
IHSS timesheets affect us all, so we must work together to fix this system. Contact your local UDW office to find out how you can get involved in our work to improve our timesheet system today.
As caregivers, we work hard for our clients, and count on our pay to help us provide for our families. When our IHSS paychecks are late or our timesheets are delayed, we struggle to make ends meet.
In August, UDW and other homecare unions began asking IHSS providers to complete a survey to share our most pressing concerns with the IHSS timesheet and payroll system. Within three months, thousands of providers from across the state responded, and the results were clear:
UDW is listening!
As a union, we are taking steps to ensure that our IHSS payroll system works for all homecare providers. We’ve submitted the survey results to a select group of lawmakers, and we’re talking to state officials and other stakeholders about ways to streamline the timesheet and payroll process, making it work for all providers.
Stay updated on our efforts to improve the IHSS payroll system by visiting www.udwa.org.