Kara Dwyer does the dishes for her home care client. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

The state has hired a new agency to manage payroll for a network of personal care aides that serve people on Medicaid who are aging at home, after the previous payroll supervisor was repeatedly accused of late payments to employees.

State officials have selected Michigan-based GT Independence to replace Allied Community Resources, which has come under scrutiny by workers and union leaders who say they’ve dealt with multiple instances of late payments. SEIU 1199 New England, the state’s largest health care workers union, represents 11,500 personal care aides, many of whom are paid by Allied.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that GT Independence will be able to implement significant improvements for … PCAs and thousands of consumers of home care services,” union President Rob Baril said Wednesday. “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.

“Too many of our members lost their homes, their cars, or were forced to miss medical treatment because of Allied’s payroll errors and delays,” he said. “We welcome GT Independence as the new payroll agency and look forward to our work together to ensure that home care is treated with respect and dignity.”

Officials with Allied could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Problems with payroll under Allied were highlighted in a Connecticut Mirror series on gaps in the state’s elder care services. As Connecticut tries to recruit and retain more home care workers for a ballooning older adult population, union officials said Allied’s payment issues were undercutting those efforts. Missed payments can mean workers are behind on paying bills and in some cases can lead to eviction or threat of eviction. In other cases, late payments have caused some employees to leave the industry, union officials have said.

Home care worker Ebony Ross-Peel told the CT Mirror earlier this year that she left her job after she was paid late for two weeks of work. During the lag, she told union and state officials, she had to sleep in her car.

“I most certainly do not want to work in home care anymore,” she said. “You give so much and you get so little out of it.”

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Union leaders say the issues have continued. On Friday, thousands of workers did not receive payment in the morning as scheduled, they said. Many were paid later in the day, but as of Tuesday, some were still awaiting payment.

Margaret Walker, who has worked as a personal care aide for more than 15 years, said she still has not been paid for 17 hours. She said she has been paid late at least five times.

“My budget is based on what I make. So if I’m not making what my budget is already planned for, I’m falling short all around the board,” she said. “It just puts me in a bind to where I’m like, ‘What do I do now?’ I’ve already worked the hours and sometimes I had to wait two or three weeks” for full payment.

Union officials said they have received 1,659 grievances from members over payroll problems so far this year. In 2022, they received 1,653 complaints.

A spokesman for the state Department of Social Services, which oversees many of the home care programs, said the agency is aware of the issues, including the discrepancy on Friday.

“In regard to the payment discrepancy addressed by SEIU 1199, DSS is currently investigating the matter,” the spokesman, Giovanni Pinto, said. “Preliminary findings indicate that the bank Allied uses to execute the direct deposit payments may have been impacted by the larger national direct deposit issue that occurred last Friday. DSS and Allied are working to confirm this.

“Allied has confirmed that the payment file was delivered to the bank on time and correctly in order for the bank to execute the direct deposits late Thursday night or early Friday morning. While we do not have an exact number of affected PCAs, Allied alerted DSS that they should have been paid by 6 p.m. last Friday.”

State officials said they have built safeguards in the new contract, including penalties for failure to meet obligations.

“To ensure continued high-quality care and services, the Department of Social Services regularly initiates a competitive and public procurement process. As a result of this latest process, GT Independence won the right to negotiate a contract … and now DSS has subsequently executed a contract with them,” Pinto 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.”

GT Independence is expected to begin its three-year, $126 million contract with the state in March.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.