Pennsylvania warns companies over failure to pay home-care workers

Posted: February 06, 2013

The controversy over the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's consolidation of payroll services for certain home-care workers hired directly by the disabled has escalated.

DPW consolidated those payroll services in December from 37 agencies to one company based in Boston, Public Partnerships L.L.C., as part of a campaign to cut costs from the state's Medicaid budget.

Home-care workers across the state have complained for weeks about not getting paid by Public Partnerships, known as PPL, but late last week DPW turned its fire on 24 of the former payroll providers, saying they owed money to workers for hours logged before PPL took over.

The DPW warned the 24 agencies that "immediate sanctions" would be imposed if they failed to notify DPW by Tuesday at noon that they have plans to pay what they owe to the home-care workers.

Several former payroll providers said Monday that they were told by officials at PPL and DPW that PPL would take care of time sheets that were submitted too late for inclusion in the final payroll due from the former providers.

"We were instructed to have people fill out their time on PPL time sheets, and PPL will pay it," said Stanley Holbrook, president and chief executive officer of the Three Rivers Center for Independent Living in Pittsburgh.

"That's what we were told by OLTL," the DPW's Office of Long Term Living, Holbrook said.

The issue of pay for work before PPL took over is separate from the difficulties some workers have experienced as they seek to be paid by PPL.

Isabel Gonzalez, 29, of Philadelphia, said she had not been paid since she received her last paycheck from Liberty Resources Inc. on Dec. 28. She said PPL owed her $2,160. After struggling with PPL for eight weeks, Gonzalez said, PPL finally returned a phone call Monday and at least gave her an identification number.

"I'm not going to lie: I've cried myself to sleep," said Gonzalez, who has two young children.

PPL said Monday that it had paid 92 percent of valid time sheets. That figure likely understates the volume of unpaid workers because it would not include Gonzalez and others who have not yet been able to submit valid time sheets.

Gonzalez said she never had payroll problems with Liberty Resources, which was among those to receive the DPW letter.

The letter from DPW said it did not matter that many of the former payroll agencies no longer had the employees to provide those services, called financial management services (FMS).

"The fact that your agency may have downsized due to the transition (to PPL) or the fact that you are no longer providing FMS services are NOT valid reasons for noncompliance," it said.

A lawyer for two industry groups countered in a letter to DPW officials Sunday that many of the former payroll providers no longer had the authority to withhold taxes.

"Even if they wanted to issue payments, they are not authorized to do such," the letter said.


Contact Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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