INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Some Indiana companies contracted by the Department of Child Services (DCS) said they may have to close due to a delay in payments from the state.
The Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy (IACRA) said the problem is tied to the results of an audit.
People who work with children in need generally aren’t paid a lot. Typically, their passion for the job keeps them going. However, if they can’t feed their own families, they won’t be much help to others.
IACRA Executive Director Chris Daley said delayed payments from DCS aren’t a new problem.
"We’ve been working with DCS for the majority of the year on payment delays,” said Daley.
He said about 3,000 employees are impacted by the delays and different agencies have had to open or tap lines of credit to pay them.
“Not having access to their full paycheck or working for a company that is having to borrow money to make their payroll is just creating an enormous amount of stress on this group of folks who have very stressful and very important jobs,” said Daley. "It would be a terrible outcome to this whole thing if we have families throughout the state who weren’t able to receive the services they need simply because the agencies who are providing them can’t afford to carry these invoices further for the state.”
IARCA and a rep for the state auditor said an audit raised red flags. The state auditor’s office responded by reviewing payments more closely and changing the documentation process.
The Auditor of State's Office said:
"In the last several months, the Auditor of State and the Department of Child Services have been reviewing payment processing for DCS. As a result, all parties involved from provider, to agency to Auditor of State are adjusting to new procedures which has extended payment processing times temporarily. We know timely payments are very important to all state vendors, particularly those who service families and children. We are taking every effort to minimize delays. We have added resources to our team and continue to work with DCS to find additional ways to streamline processing and enhance payment times.
The Auditor of State is the final approver of vendor payments. We approve in the order they are received from all state agencies. DCS is a priority and we have dedicated staff to work only on DCS vendor payments. We are currently processing payments about 15 days after they have been provided to AOS for review. Once approved it is a couple of days before payment is deposited into accounts."
However, some companies said they’ve gone even longer without pay.
"We definitely know that there are some invoices going back to services in July that have not received full payment," said Daley.
State Auditor Chief of Staff Staci Schneider said those companies must be missing some kind of documentation.
Daley said the auditor’s office has been quick to respond to concerns, however he feels there is probably a bit more to review than is absolutely necessary. That’s why IARCA is asking state lawmakers to step in.
"As the ranking minority member on the family and children’s services committee, I deal with the Department of Child Services pretty frequently, so, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good relationship with them,” said State Sen. J.D. Ford of Indianapolis.
He said he is working to speed up the DCS payment process.
“Perhaps maybe bring on an additional person to help you know, expedite that, maybe it’s automating the process,” said Sen. Ford.
He said he’s confident they’ll be able to come to a solution before services have to shut down.
"Certainly that is not what we hope to happen," said Ford. "We want to hopefully try and get this rectified.”