Day care operators affected by state shortfall

CHICAGO The state is behind in paying many bills, including thousands of dollars some local child care operators count on to keep running.

State Comptroller Dan Hynes says the state is behind on nearly $4 billion worth of bills.

Some day care operators say they've been told the monthly family care funds they rely on will be delayed by at least 45 days.

State officials are meeting behind the scenes to work on some solution to this backlog. In the meantime, thousands of providers who offer services and care to some of the most needy are in jeopardy.

Deshada McCaster knew how hard it was to find childcare, so three years ago she opened Lil Paws in her home.

She and her employee care for 14 children daily in the Englewood neighborhood. The Lil Paws families qualify for a state program in which low-income families can get child care assistance. That means McCaster operates with money from the state. But she says the state hasn't paid since October.

"They should have warned us. I feel they don't care about nobody but themselves," said McCaster.

Several women who offer home day care for low income families say they're owed thousands of dollars by the state. They say they're now struggling to pay for their mortgages and rent while maintaining state standards of child care.

"I don't think the state should allow me to lose my home just because I haven't been paid," said Brenda McMillon, home day care provider.

"I don't know if I am actually going to have the funds," said Sonetta White, home day care provider.

"I feel really hurt about the people that work for me because I cannot pay them," said Lulu Jackson, home day care provider.

Last week, Hynes warned lawmakers of a 12-week delay in payments to vendors suggesting flexibility in borrowing and setting up a revolving line of credit to prevent vendors from suspending service.

"I am calling on the general assembly to let the state borrow money and the state will pay that money back within 12 months," Hynes said.

On Monday, the state senator Christine Radogno spoke on behalf of senate Republicans.

"It is something that will spare people some pain. The concern is that we're not addressing the underlying budget problem," said Radogno, (R) 41st District & Lemont.

As state leaders work on a fix, providers like Ms. McCaster an inch closer to the turning away families looking for childcare.

State senator Radongo suggests reduced healthcare or education expenses, instead of taking on more debt. The state legislature goes into the veto session later this week. A bill may be introduced.

In theory, it could be passed, but it would be tough.

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