Home care workers rallied in Salem Thursday, saying the agency responsible for paying them frequently fails to do so on time. Home care workers support people who are aging or physically disabled.
Several dozen marched on the headquarters of the Department of Human Services demanding the agency take more steps to ensure payments are issued on time.
They said late payments have been an ongoing problem, forcing home care workers to scramble to pay bills when an expected check doesn’t arrive. “There’s no guarantee that our pay’s going to be on time," said Rebecca Sandoval, a home care worker from Medford. "There are a lot of issues with the system that keep that from happening, even when we do everything right, there are still issues that keep that from happening.”
Sandoval is also on the union bargaining team that’s negotiating a new contract with the state. Thursday's rally was organized by SEIU Local 503.
In a statement, the Department of Human Services says their records show that last year 97.8% of payments to home care workers were on time. The agency said payments that are not issued on time can be the result of either state error or an error on the part of the home care worker who submits the time card. A breakdown of state errors versus worker errors was not available.
The agency also said that the existing contract with home care workers requires the state to pay late fees or overdraft charges incurred by home care workers as a result of a delayed payment, if the error was on the part of the state.
That's the result of previous negotiations, said Sandoval. But she said it doesn't fix the problem.
"What we need is a fix that stops that late pay from happening so that it doesn’t destroy people’s lives," she said. "Because even if they get a fix a month or six weeks down the road, that doesn’t help when they got evicted or when their car got repossessed. The problem has got to be fixed before it happens.”