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Pennsylvania seeks to recover some CARES Act funds

Matt Rourke

Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services is seeking to recover more than $350,000 in CARES Act aid paid to local home health and long-term care providers.

The state says more than a dozen Allegheny County providers — a combination of home health agencies and personal care homes — failed to account for how the funds were spent.

Among the largest local recipients of funds the state is seeking to recover are Loving Kindness Healthcare Systems, which received more than $70,000 in aid, Tindell Care LLC, and the Exurbia Group LLC, which both received more than $50,000 in assistance. The state says nearly 190 providers statewide also failed to properly report their spending.

Providers received the money in 2020 and were directed to use it to cover COVID-19 related costs, including staff salaries, training and personal protective equipment.

The Department of Human Services is “working with the Office of Attorney General to formally refer these providers for collection action,” a spokesperson said, as the AG’s office conducts collection activities for state agencies under the Governor’s jurisdiction. The Attorney General’s office said 21 cases had been referred to them.

Cheri Tindell, owner of Tindell Care, said she didn’t know who to send her documentation to, but that she used the funds to give her staff raises and bonuses, and to pay for things like additional transportation expenses for workers earlier in the pandemic.

Other companies did not respond to emails and phone calls from a WESA reporter.

Teri Henning, CEO of the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, said there were some challenges with the process by which providers were supposed to report their spending, and some agencies said they didn’t receive the same amount of money state records had listed. Still, she said, providers were told when they received the funds they would need to properly report their spending.

“It is important to start with: did the agency get the funds? Is the amount correct, and did the agency actually report?” Henning said. “Just to confirm that those things did and did not happen before recoupment efforts are started. But, if … all those things are accurate, then the state was pretty open and clear from the start that they would attempt to …recoup the funds.”

The state contracts with hundreds of home care agencies who employ workers who care for those who are elderly or have disabilities. These workers often earn a low wage — mainly because of low government reimbursements for their services. Industry, labor, and advocacy groups have for years called for more government support for the sector in order to raise wages and retain more home care workers.

A report earlier this month from labor union SEIU and United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania called attention to the agencies statewide that failed to report on their CARES Act spending.

Reporting how they spent the funds is “the bare minimum” of accountability for providers, said Michael Kinnucan, an SEIU research analyst. “There's no real check on whether they report it accurately. And so the fact that over 100 agencies didn't even bother to sort of fill out the form really points to a concerning trend. And we're glad to see the department taking action and … providing teeth by withdrawing the funding.”

Sarah Boden
Kate Giammarise