LEWISTOWN - For the past 17 years, Community Resources for Independence has been providing financial services for those living with disabilities, allowing people to independently hire in-home aides of their choosing. However, because of changes made to the Public Welfare Code and Attendant Care Waiver, CRI ended financial management services on June 30, Tim Finegan, executive director of CRI, said.
Almost six weeks later, the personal care assistants that once depended upon CRI have yet to be paid, Nicole Seiler, a local personal care assistant, said. As of July 1, all former employees of CRI were transferred to Christian Financial Management, based out of Pittsburgh, for payroll services, she said.
"The worst part is that no one is getting back to us or letting us know what is going on," Sieler said. "Many people have called the company but the mailbox is full and the fax number doesn't work. If we knew when we'd eventually be getting paid, the situation wouldn't be so awful."
Based on a full-time schedule, personal care assistants earn roughly $300 per weekly paycheck. After four missed paydays, Christian Financial owes each employee $1,200.
The transfer resulted in an influx of 17,000 new employees to payroll, Finegan said, and it is possible that Christian Financial is taking some time to get organized. Although, he added, that is no excuse for the lack of communication.
"It's unfortunate because CRI is being blamed for employees not receiving payment, but it is absolutely not true," Finegan said. "Our company cannot be blamed if Christian Financial doesn't have enough cash-flow or organization We were told they could handle the job."
Multiple attempts to contact Christian Financial Services were unsuccessful.
Similar changes are taking place across the state due to amendments in the Public Welfare Code and alterations to the Attendant Care waiver, Finegan said.
Effective as of July 1, the changes in the Attendant Care waiver calls for a conflict free case management system, meaning that businesses specializing in Home and Community-Based Services must choose between providing financial management services, service coordination, or direct care. A business may no longer provide a combination of any listed services.
"The state can't make such drastic changes and think that businesses are just going to go along with it," Finnegan said. "Each business will adapt to the changes in a way that's beneficial. We decided it would be more profitable for us to drop the financial portion of our services."
The addition of Chapter 52, entitled Long-Term Living Home and Community-Based Services, to the Public Welfare Code limits the number of financial service providers in Pennsylvania based on a number of state determined requirements. According to the document, the Commonwealth's HCBS have grown 452 percent in the past 11 years, costing the state $1.014 billion in Fiscal Year 2011 as compared to $66 million in FY 2000.
Previously the Department of Public Works paid for program services through a locally negotiated rate. The addition of Chapter 52 limits payment to two specific methods for three state picked financial service providers, decreasing the amount of expenses expected for the new fiscal year.
Though the state has yet to pick the final companies to provide financial services, Public Partnership, located in Massachusetts, will be in charge of paying personal care assistants in east and west Pennsylvania by the fall season.
"Basically once Christian Financial gets everything organized, the paperwork and responsibility will be transferred out of state by the end of the year," Finegan said.
For more information on the Attendant Care waiver, including a printable copy of the document, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and click on "Office of Long-Term Living" and then "Information for Providers." To read Chapter 52 of the Public Welfare Code visit www.pacode.com/secure/data/055/chapter52/chap52toc.html.