Problems Persist with State Program Keeping Disabled, Elderly at Home

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Pennsylvania's Attendant Care Program remains under fire, more than a week after payroll problems were supposed to be solved.

Some caregivers have been paid some of what they were owed in these low-wage jobs, designed to help them help elderly and disabled Pennsylvanians to stay in their homes and avoid nursing home care that would cost both them and taxpayers more money.

Dave Gubber of Avis in Clinton County is one of hundreds of frustrated caregivers.

"Nobody seems to care," he said as he fed Donna Faus, a woman in a wheelchair whom he shares a house with, and provides care to, making about $350 a week.

For six weeks this summer, Dave wasn`t paid at all, despite dozens of calls to the state and the payroll company that was supposed to send him a check.

"The check`s in the mail," Dave recounts the company telling him. "Nothing comes in the mail."

When Dave finally got a check August 6, he said he was shorted a dollar an hour from his $10 an hour wage, and he said he was paid only through late July.

"My biggest concern and hurt, is for people like Donna," said Dave about Donna Faus, the woman he attends.

"You feel kind of guilty about that even though technically, its not your fault," said Donna about the situation.

Donna Faus is one of 1,700 disabled or elderly people in Pennsylvania, whose caregivers went without pay for more than a month. Pittsburgh-based Christian Financial Management, seemed overwhelmed when the state's Department of Public Welfare contracted it to run the Attendant Care program's payroll July 1.

A memo obtained by Newswatch 16 describes an August 14 meeting with between lawmakers, people connected to the attendant care program, and Bonnie Rose, the Director of Pennsylvania's Office of Long-Term Living. The memo quotes Rose as saying Christian Financial "..promised they would be caught up by August 10," yet paycheck problems persist almost two weeks later.

It claims, "...(one) consumer is in the hospital because of a lack of care by a missing attendant," and "30 consumers no longer have attendants because of a lack of pay." There`s no way of knowing in real-time how many caregivers have left their patients.

Donna Faus worries that in small communities, a patient could be abandoned for several days before anyone would even notice.

"I know what it`s like to be left behind in your bed and your attendant doesn`t show up in the morning," said Faus. "It`s despair."

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare told us after deadline that workers in regional offices, including Central Pennsylvania are keeping close tabs on all people needing care, and get quick help when a caregiver leaves.

Despair now permeates this home because of money problems caused by late paychecks. Faus is looking for a loan to pay the bills, and Dave Gubber plans to sell Native American artifacts, that are valuable to him, just to stay in their home.

Gubber said one more late paycheck from this government funded program means a likely eviction.

"Take the clothes we have on our back and a few other things, and just go find a state that will take us and start a new life again," said Gubber.

According to State Representative Mike Hanna's Office in Clinton County, three caregivers in our area have not been paid a dime since July 1. We've also learned that several advocates for the disabled and elderly are calling for an investigation of Christian Financial Management, and want to know if that company had enough money and employees to take over the payroll contract.

We could not get through to Christian Financial to get their side of the story.