CHICAGO (CBS) – Millions of your taxes help vulnerable people get to the doctor – appointments for chemotherapy, dialysis, physiotherapy and other necessities.
But some entrepreneurs in the program that runs the rides say they are owed tens of thousands of dollars in paychecks – or in some cases, denied outright. Tim McNicholas of CBS 2 asked on Monday why drivers are not paid for their work.
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Gwendolyn Carrington-Smith loves her job.
“I meet different people. I’m in different places, ”she said. “We help people. “
But it’s a job. It is not a charity.
“I am frustrated because they are trying to deny me the money I owe,” Carrington-Smith said. “It’s money I worked for.”
Carrington-Smith runs a small business with her husband called ELS Transportation Services. State of Illinois.
“It’s a job we badly need,” Carrington-Smith said. “I work and you pay me. It’s simple.”
Apparently, it is not that simple.
Carrington-Smith showed McNicholas a trash can full of records from ELS races from August through October – valued at around $ 20,000, she said. But Carrington-Smith was not paid for them as First Transit said it did not follow their new billing rules.
“I’m fooled,” she said.
Proof or no proof, First Transit told Carrington-Smith it was too late to be paid because the rides were over 30 days ago.
“It’s like, it’s like a slap in the face. I wasn’t expecting it, so it’s overwhelming, ”Carrington-Smith said. “I am very disappointed.”
But she didn’t panic at first, as their paychecks are often sporadic. Just ask Jerry Thomas from AAA-1 Transportation.
“It got to the point where I stopped fighting,” he said.
Thomas emailed First Transit in late October 2019, saying he hadn’t been paid all month – apparently because he was having trouble faxing the check-ins to them to confirm his rides.
“When they don’t pay us our money, it immediately affects us, because the expense to make it work is high – so high,” Thomas said.
A manager responded a few days later – their fax machine was having problems and Thomas would have to FedEx the cases or drop them off to be paid. This was just one of many billing issues he has encountered with the company over the past five years.
“My family depends on me,” said Thomas, “you know we do everything we can, and if I don’t do it right, I lose everything.”
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Mosu Abudai is a saleswoman from the southern suburbs who said she also struggled to fax records to First Transit in 2018.
“We need help, we seriously need help,” Abudai said.
She was also eventually told that she would never get the paychecks for the rides because 30 days had passed.
“We have to buy gasoline, maintenance, we have to pay the driver, we have to solicit bills – and the company we work for is not going to pay us to stay in business,” Abudai said.
When First Transit didn’t pay, Abudai’s company stopped driving for them. Other sellers told us that they also quit due to payment disputes.
Carrington-Smith has also quit for now.
“Why didn’t you send me, ‘This is being rejected? ” “, did she say. “There was no line of communication.”
First Transit told Carrington-Smith the error was on them. She had only recorded the trips in question online, but her salespeople were also expected to mail all their documents, drop them off in person or fax them.
“Are you quiet, and you keep allowing me to go looking for people day after day, month after month, knowing all the way that you’re not going to pay me?” Carrington-Smith said.
Carrington-Smith said she was confused by the new billing method and was wary of First Transit’s finicky fax machines. In November she sent in her records, but again – First Transit said if the trips were more than 30 days ago, it was too late.
“I did everything in my power to try to rectify the situation with them, and then all of a sudden they stopped communicating,” she said.
First Transit sent us a statement saying they need strict procedures because the services are publicly funded.
The state suggests that ride providers have six months to submit claims, not 30 days. But First Transit also has a contract with Cook County, and on some of those routes the company has enforced its 30-day rule.
This meant that despite bad fax machines or new billing systems, after 30 days the ride providers were out of luck.
But it turns out that Carrington-Smith said after we started asking questions, First Transit finally agreed to approve his salary.
“It’s a good day. I really appreciate it,” she said. “You guys, my God. You really took the time to listen. I really appreciate it.”
On Monday evening, we did not know if the other drivers who spoke to us will also receive the checks owed to them. We asked First Transit for an interview, telling the company we had a lot of questions and their statement didn’t answer them, but the company didn’t respond.
Meanwhile, Cook County emailed us saying they were grateful that we brought this issue to their attention. They are now reviewing all of these complaints and have said that anyone with concerns can submit them online at CountyCare.com.
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