Hundreds of vendors unpaid by state

February 9, 2009 8:36:38 PM PST
The state of Illinois is so far behind on its bills that hundreds of vendors have gone unpaid and are struggling to stay afloat.Many vendors are social service agencies so their need for financing is urgent.

Karen Escobar is thankful to have a roof over her head. A few years ago, the 34-year-old mother of three lost her job, then lost her apartment after her landlord went into foreclosure.

"I was homeless for over a year. I was jumping from house to house. The last place I was living I was living on my girlfriend's floor," said Escobar, Vision House resident.

Escobar was homeless until two years ago when the Vision House took her and her family in.

The South Side social service agency provides permanent housing for homeless families and people living with HIV, including 51-year-old Emory Bolden.

"It's not just shelters, it's actually life, it's that critical to help me survive," said Bolden, Vision House resident.

But now the survival of Vision House is in jeopardy with private and state funds drying up. Vision House is just one of hundreds of vendors that are not getting paid by the state on time.

"It has affected our ability to pay staff, it has affected our ability to provide services to families. It has truly impacted every bit of the operation," said Tyrone Marshall, Vision House executive director.

Marshall joined dozens of other social services agencies in a meeting with state comptroller Dan Hynes. With nine billion dollars in debt, Hynes says it's taking the state almost 10 weeks to pay it's bills.

"I don't want to tell these folks there we can do work with them to get little money we have out as soon as possible," said Hynes.

Hynes is setting up a hot line to help vendors navigate the process. And he's hopeful to speed up the payment process with upcoming income tax collections.