After years of objecting to paycheck processing errors by a state-contracted payroll vendor, a union representing 11,500 Connecticut home care workers was optimistic Wednesday as the state prepared to transition to a new fiscal intermediary.
Beginning next March, Michigan-based GT Independence is expected to start operating payroll processing for personal care attendants funded through a handful of state agencies.
Under a three-year, roughly $126 million maximum contract, the new vendor will take over for Enfield-based nonprofit Allied Community Services, according to SEIU 1199NE, a union representing home care workers, who have filed thousands of grievances against Allied.
“We remain cautiously optimistic that GT Independence will be able to implement significant improvements for 11,500 PCAs and thousands of consumers of home care services,” SEIU 1199NE President Rob Baril said in a press release. “PCAs play a huge role by supporting our loved ones to live independently at home. They deserve to be paid accurately, on time, every time.”
The expected shift comes more than two years after the state issued a request for proposals for a new fiscal intermediary to pay home care workers, which followed years of complaints by PCAs who said their pay was interrupted by persistent errors by Allied. Those frustrations were compounded by lengthy wait times encountered by PCAs seeking assistance over the phone, the union said.
New contractor, GT Independence announced it would be the new fiscal intermediary for self-directed care in Connecticut on its website.
“We look forward to serving participants and providers in Connecticut in early 2024,” the company said. “We are owned and run by people with disabilities and their family members. Our goal is to make self-direction easier for you.”
Meanwhile unionized PCAs, some of whom engaged in civil disobedience to protest the mounting errors by Allied, celebrated the former vendor’s departure on Wednesday.
“I can’t believe we are finally getting rid of Allied,” Margaret Walker, a PCA from Stamford, said. “We had to fight as a union through letters to state leaders, public testimony, press conferences, and multiple actions of civil disobedience. All we want is to be paid reliably for the hours we worked, and to be able to fix paycheck problems as soon as possible.”
A representative of Allied Community Services did not immediately respond to a call for comment left Wednesday.
The new contract with GT includes oversight and financial penalties, according to the union, which said that the transition to a more reliable payroll system had the potential to stabilize Connecticut’s home care workforce.
Last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that jobs in the PCA field would grow by roughly 22% over the next decade, far outpacing most other occupations. Nationwide, PCAs earn a median of around $30,180 per year, according to the federal agency.
Here in Connecticut, the home care workers earn a minimum wage of $18.25 per hour and last year ratified a contract with the state that included paid time off and a health care stipend, according to the union.
SEIU 1199NE included a number of pending issues, which it asked the state to address as it implements its new contract with GT Independence including ensuring that the vendor can correct payroll problems between pay cycles to reduce the impact of errors on workers whose pay is disrupted.
“It’s time to learn from all these costly mistakes and put in a system that really works,” Walker said in a press release.
In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services said said the transition was part of a regular competitive procurement process.
“As a result of this latest process, GT Independence won the right to negotiate a contract with DSS, [Department of Developmental Services and Aging and Disability Services] and now DSS has subsequently executed a contract with them,” the spokesperson said. “As a part of the new contract, accountability measures surrounding customer service experience have been included. Allied will remain contracted for a period of time to ensure a smooth transition.”
Meanwhile, DSS was investigating a recent pay discrepancy at Allied, which appeared to be connected to direct deposit delays impacting banks across the country and believed to be rooted in an error in a national payment system. Both the agency and Allied were working to confirm the details, the spokesperson said.
“While we do not have an exact number of affected PCAs, Allied alerted DSS that they should have been paid by 6PM last Friday,” the spokesperson said.