Agencies: State must pay bills to keep services

December 10, 2009 4:53:26 PM PST
Hundreds of organizations in Illinois say they could be forced to close if millions of unpaid bills are not taken care of.Advocates sounded the alarm again Friday on the consequences that social service agencies face, if the state fails to pay up.

And now, there are more charges of politics entering this issue.

Many of the human agencies that get most of their money from the financially troubled state of Illinois are literally nearing the end of the line. Their owners and operators say the state's safety net for its most vulnerable citizens is only days, or at most a few weeks, from breaking apart.

The state's disabled and elderly residents could be among the first big losers in the Illinois financial crisis. One adult day care center could close within a month.

"Most of them would need a private care giver or family member during the day," said Dr. Shanthy Edward of Chicago Commons Day Services. "Most of them have cognitive or physical impairments that would prevent them from providing for themselves."

The center, which depends on the state for 90 percent of its funding, has not received a check from Springfield for months, and its bank will lend it no more money to keep it afloat.

"If we do not receive reimbursement soon, I would say that we might need to close our doors by early next year," Edward said.

The state of Illinois, with an estimated $11 billion to $13 billion deficit, owes an estimated $4.5 billion to its vendors. AARP says the creditors include 200 agencies around the state that serve the elderly that could be forced out of business within weeks.

"I have no funds to make payroll next week for my staff," said Champaign Senior Care Provider Carol Acord.

"For our last payroll, our family had to deplete all of our savings," said Norman James of Family Home Services, Inc. "So that we can keep our employees out there working and providing the service that the seniors need."

Earlier, Gov. Pat Quinn told a conference on aging that he was not optimistic about a $500 million short-term loan to speed up payments to the most needy agencies. That's because Quinn's primary election opponent, state Comptroller Dan Hynes, will not sign off on the transaction.

"If he doesn't want to do it, what can I do?" Quinn said.

"The borrowed proposal that is put forward, would make things worse. We need leadership. We need a solution. The solution is not a runaway credit card because he can't deal with the underlying financial problem," said Hynes, a Democratic candidate for governor.

But the worst-off providers want the state to use whatever means to pay what it owes now and save the politics for later.

"Put aside our partisan differences, our political aspirations, and take emergency action now," said Democratic Rep. Greg Harris who represents Chicago.

Governor Quinn says he is focused on trying to accelerate the arrival of federal money to Illinois to help speed up payments to the agencies in the most peril.

Hynes says his office has a hardship process available to help those agencies in the most dire circumstances.

However, the providers at the news conference Thursday said they have appealed to the hardship system, and they have gotten no relief.


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