In June, Katie McDowell started a new job as office manager at a social service agency that was just opening. The first paychecks arrived as scheduled, but they weren't released, Katie was told due to a lack of funding.
"it was a shock, I cried, everyone was upset. It hurts a lot because I have bills to pay and now I'm back to square one looking for another job", said Katie.
After four weeks of work, Katie left her job. She never did receive a paycheck and filed a report with the Department of Labor for just over $2200 dollars in unpaid wages.
Local union rep Tom Lewandowski says this problem is far more common that most believe.
"it's a bigger feature in the labor market than ever before. Far too many people are having their wages taken from them", said Lewandowski, President of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council.
We contacted Katie's former employer, Transitional Assistance Services and they were very open about their struggles. After moving most of their services from Indianapolis, the small non-profit quickly found financial hurdles in their path of helping troubled children in Allen County. The organization lost a crucial local church partnership they were counting on and like many non-profits, they've found bank loans much harder to come by.
They have a state contract with the Department of Child Services, but it can take between 30 and 60 days to receive payment, after service, making the start-up process even more difficult, but they insist, they'll survive and meet their financial obligations,including early employees that were laid off.
" we know we've had a struggle, it's been very hard for us. I would not be truthful if I said it wasn't. There's a plan to meet all of our financial obligations", said TAS President, Linda Lipscomb.
TAS told us they've seen a pick-up in referrals to their services in the past month. According to the youth institute, Allen County has the 3rd highest number of school suspensions, behind Marion and Lake County. Those are the kids TAS is trying to reach with their day treatments, many of their current students have been expelled or have substance abuse issues. Transitional Assistance Services currently has a staff of seven, including a Doctor and other service workers that work with kids and also track their progress with personal visits.
"We came here because of the kids. We know we can't pay our bills off of love, but we do know that it takes more than money to raise our kids, it takes passion and commitment and the people that stayed here believe that", said Lipscomb.
The current TAS facilities downtown are impressive and Lipscomb said the lease was an answer to prayer. Despite more money starting to come in, they are still looking for additional financing and a community partner. Katie, meanwhile is likely facing a long wait as the Department of Labor rules on her complaint. Tom Lewandowski says the department is overwhelmed with cases similar to Katie's.
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