AVIS - Approximately 1,700 workers taking care of the state's most vulnerable citizens aren't receiving their paychecks because of a snafu that occurred at state level.
According to at least one of those attendants, the situation is placing these at-risk, frequently homebound individuals at even more risk, as their primary caregivers cut back on hours and look for other ways to support their own families.
The situation has become serious enough that State Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Lock Haven, has written to Gov. Tom Corbett on behalf of the personal care attendants whose paychecks have been delayed due to a switch in payroll management agencies.
According to Hanna, the state's Attendant Care Program provides daily living assistance such as help with household chores, personal hygiene and mobility so that people can remain in their home rather than live in an institution.
When the program switched payroll providers, from Community Resources for Independence to Christian Financial Management, it resulted in a payroll delay for more than 1,700 personal care attendants.
Some of these attendants have yet to receive any pay for services rendered in July.
Some, like David Gubber of Avis, who has called and called Christian Financial Services and has received no reply from Christian Financial, are becoming increasingly frustrated by the situation.
"Many of us have been at this 9-to-5 since it started," Gubber said. "Gov. Corbett and the Department of Public Welfare wanted to streamline this, so they dumped upwards of 22,000 disabled consumers into one agency to pay for their attendants."
Unfortunately, Gubber said, "They aren't paying us ... They keep passing the buck to others ... I'm technically still working so I can't collected unemployment - but I can't pay my bills. There are thousands of us like me."
Gubber said he's attempted to contact Christian Financial Services, but all he's been able to hear in reply is a recorded message saying the "mailbox is full."
He said the only time he's been able to talk to a "real body," the recipient of his telephone call told him the office was closed on the weekends.
"People have been showing up at the company's office in Pittsburgh, demanding their paychecks," Gubber said. "I called the governor's office and I was told it's not the governor's problem."
He also said the person he provides services for also called the state, received the same response and when she mentioned the possibility of a class-action lawsuit, got a reply suggesting criminal charges might be filed for that "threat."
Even more uncertain is the impact this situation might be having on the clients.
Because of state regulations governing the release of medical files and the identities attached to those files, a list of clients can't be obtained, and because of that, Gubber said, the caregivers can't even check up on clients who might be neglected during the impasse.
"I suggest if you know somebody or have a loved one who has in-house care under these circumstances, you check on that person. Some of them might not have cell phones available, or might be restricted in movement."
Gubber cares for a female with spinal muscular atrophy, he said.
"She can go out ... She just needs some help around the house with certain types of activity, movement from bed to wheelchair and meal preparation," he said.
"As you know, personal care attendants provide a valuable service to thousands of Pennsylvania's most vulnerable citizens," Hanna wrote in his letter. "Without payment, I worry that attendants will be unable to provide adequate care and a tragedy may ensue.
"With all of this in mind, I ask that you intervene and expedite this payroll transition in order to avoid any additional harm to this program or its personal care attendants."
Hanna personally contacted the governor, as well as sent a copy of the letter to Annmarie Kaiser, secretary of Legislative Affairs, and the Department of Public Welfare. Hanna said he hopes the issue will be resolved within the next few days.