IHSS payroll system working out bugs in Merced County

Merced part of pilot before a full launch

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comOctober 30, 2012 

About 20 percent to 25 percent of the time sheets for providers in the In-Home Supportive Services program in Merced County are bouncing back.

That number has dropped from 30 percent to 35 percent since the beginning of the month, said Janice Rector, deputy director for Adult and Aging Services in Merced County.

"Any time that you're a pilot county, you expect to see issues," she said. "But the concern that we have is that the errors continue. We continue to have problems. We continue to have things that come up."

The in-home services program pays providers to perform various duties for seniors and disabled people, allowing them to remain in their homes.

The state rolled out a $300 million payroll system for the IHSS program in three pilot counties: Merced, Yolo and San Diego. Merced and Yolo went live with the program at the end of July, followed by San Diego at the beginning of September.

In all three counties, 95 percent of the time sheets have been processed within the required time frame, said Michael Weston, spokesman for the state Department of Social Services.

The system is supposed to be rolled out to 10 counties Dec. 4 and go live statewide by June 2013. The next 10 counties include Fresno, Stanislaus, Kern and San Francisco.

It's important to recognize that the state is in its pilot phase with the new system, Weston said, which allows officials to identify problems before launching it in other counties.

He said the project team will continue to identify and resolve issues, including some significant problems that delayed paychecks to providers.

Weston wouldn't say whether those issues would be fixed before Dec. 4, but he stressed that the main priority is resolving problems that are preventing workers from getting paid.

"We are trying to ensure that workers are paid in a timely manner," he said. "That's our main concern right now."

The state will continue to work closely with the pilot counties, unions and advocates, Weston said.

The most common complaints officials have heard from providers center around pay and confusion over filling out time sheets, Rector said. There are about 2,200 providers in the county.

"We have been providing one-on-one training to providers so that there are fewer problems with the completion of the time sheets," she said. "We are regularly expressing our concerns about issues to all involved parties, and we are pushing to slow things down so that no additional counties go live on the new system until the system can demonstrate stability."

Officials at the San Diego Department of Health and Human Services Agency, which has about 21,000 providers, say they have seen a 97 percent increase in complaints about the system since going live with it.

The picture is about the same in Merced County, Rector said. "Our workload has increased significantly."

After an earlier Sun-Star story, the United Domestic Workers Homecare Providers Union sent out a statement Monday demanding "that the roll-out of the system be halted immediately until these serious problems can be addressed."

"The evidence is clear. The new payroll system is a disaster in San Diego and Merced. Providers were not adequately trained on how to fill out the new time sheets. The counties were unprepared to deal with the large volume of payroll problems caused by the new system. There was no back-up program in place to help counties deal with this mess and to make sure providers are paid on time," Doug Moore, executive director of the union, said.

"To put this system in place in other counties without solving these serious problems would be unconscionable," he added.

Issues affecting providers have the potential to cause a disruption in services for In-Home Supportive Services recipients. Rector said that if providers are having difficulties getting paid for their services, it might make it hard for them to continue their work.

"We are aware of the impact the changes have had on providers and recipients," she said. "We are doing all that we can to mitigate these as much as we can."

Rector said the state has been working to address the issues since the beginning, but the frequency and the number of problems has been higher than anticipated, she said.

Officials believe that once people learn how to use the time sheets and the problems with the computer system are worked out, the change will be an improvement, she said.

"The old system wasn't able to do everything that we needed to do," Weston said. "It was functioning, but it just didn't have the functionality that we need at this time."

Need help?

Officials at Merced County's Adult and Aging Services encourage providers who are experiencing issues to call (209) 722-1738, ext. 3187 or (209) 722-1738, ext. 3168. Also, providers can call (866) 776-0930 to check the status of their time sheets.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or yamaro@mercedsunstar.com.

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