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Paychecks interrupted for home care workers in Pa.

Marc Levy, Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Home care workers for the disabled say they are having trouble getting paychecks after the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare hired a new financial management company to replace about three dozen local groups that previously had processed the workers' pay.

Paychecks were due last Friday. A spokesman for the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania said Thursday that union officials have talked to dozens of home care workers who had not received paychecks or received them late.

The spokesman, Neil Bhaerman, said it is possible that hundreds or thousands of home care workers across the state may be encountering problems receiving checks or even getting answers to their questions from the new financial management company, Boston-based Public Partnerships LLC.

Both Public Partnerships and the Department of Public Welfare said Thursday they are trying as quickly as possible to make sure every care worker is paid. Nearly 20,000 disabled people in Pennsylvania received Medicaid-paid home-care services, according to the department.

One care worker, Laura Hayford of Erie, said Thursday she has not received a paycheck while she continues her 32-hour a-week job cooking, feeding and dressing a wheel chair-bound client. She and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, she said.

"I'm still waiting for a paycheck," said Hayford, 53. "I've got bills. I've got my car payment behind ... and I have medications I'm trying to stretch out until I receive a paycheck and I haven't gotten any food in the house for the past week or two because of it."

Her husband is a maintenance worker who also did not receive his paycheck last Friday for his part-time job as a home care worker, Hayford said.

The Hayfords received a packet of information about two weeks ago, but did not understand that they had to go online and fill out forms, she said. Instead, she tried calling Public Partnerships, but could not get anyone on the phone, and her messages left on its recorded answering service were not returned, she said.

In a statement, Public Partnerships said it has paid more than 10,000 care workers who faced holdups.

Public Partnerships blamed the problems on the previous financial management companies, saying some had difficulty turning over information by certain deadlines, many could not transfer electronic files and others refused to hand over their information. Some of the information did not conform to its specifications, it said.

Each worker was supposed to receive a "welcome packet" with payroll information and timesheets, according to the department. Any care worker who needs help with timesheets or has not been paid since Friday should call 877-908-1750, department spokeswoman Carey Miller said.

Local nonprofit financial managers had handled arrangements for paying the home-care workers until Gov. Tom Corbett's administration chose to award a statewide contract to Public Partnerships as a way to cut costs.