California Senator Deems Social Services' Payroll System ‘Ridiculous'

A California senator called the payroll system at the state’s In Home Support Services “ridiculous” at a Tuesday hearing at Los Angeles City Hall.

Mike McGuire, a Democrat who represents a large swath of Northern California and chairs the Senate Committee on Human Services, said: "The state of California’s In Home Support Services is antiquated and frankly, it's broken."

The committee listened to testimony by California residents receiving and providing care through the program, which is managed by the Department of Social Services.

The goal of the hearing was to find solutions to the payroll system used by DSS to pay care providers in California. IHSS is intended to pay in-home care providers who work with nearly 450,000 disabled, sick and mentally ill children and adults.

However, more than 10,000 paychecks arrive late or not all every month.

The Investigative Unit first questioned IHSS in May when providers began claiming they were not getting paid.

At the time, Jaime Clark who stays home in order to care for her son told NBC Bay Area her paycheck was late.

“He is autistic with developmental disabilities and he needs 24-hour supervision,” said Clark. “He cannot be left alone for any amount of time.”

According to her, the most recent hard-copy timesheet – a major topic at the hearing – contained errors. As a result, she was not getting paid.

“We have four bills that are due – car payments, car insurance," Clark said. "All that is due and without my check we're not going be able to pay it."

Tonya Joy of Placer County also spoke with The Investigative Unit. Joy is paralyzed from the waist down and requires help every day. She said providers who do not receive their paychecks are not motivated to do a good job.

“Good-hearted people, when they get desperate enough, do bad things,” said Joy. “I become victimized and it happens all the time.”

On Tuesday, IHSS Director Eileen Carroll and Deputy Director Pete Cervinka attended the hearing.

“We are committed to avoiding errors,” Carroll said.

For his part, Cervinka defended the agency saying, "We dispute that the state is the cause of all of the delays that have been described. We’re disappointed however that the amazing performance of this payroll system goes unrecognized."

IHSS payroll processes more than 1 million timesheets per month. Yet, according to documents provided by the Senate Human Services Committee, 14,503 timesheets required what Social Services calls “human action” to correct.

In other words, the timesheet contained an error(s) not repairable by the department. It required the care provider's involvement at a local county office.

“There are thousands of dedicated county social workers who work on those,” Cervinka said. “Every month, only a couple hundred remain pending for more than 30 days.”

McGuire didn’t agree. He blamed the complexity of the timesheets and the fact that they are still on paper, not electronic.

Cindy Wilson is a care provider who testified at the hearing.

“I go to work every day like every one of you do,” Wilson said with a tearful, broken voice. “But I can’t rely on a timely paycheck.”

Richard Dagget agrees. He uses a motorized chair and, according to his testimony, suffers from polio.

“DSS sometimes – often times – operates in an ivory tower. I doubt if they’ve ever interacted with a severely disabled recipient,” said Dagget.

Social Services officials say the 14,503 erroneous timesheets only represent 1.3 percent of the total amount processed.

But McGuire objected, saying: "If we were a private business, we would be fined or shut down."

A new audit of IHSS will be complete in February 2017. McGuire says it should suggest additional reform of IHSS.

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