Agency can't pay workers due to state budget crisis

November 30, 2009 (CHICAGO) The state can't pay its bills. That's causing big problems for people who work at a North Side social service agency.

The agency - Asi - serving 900 elderly clients has not paid its workers in six weeks.

Addie Norman sat staring Monday morning at the pile of bills she hasn't paid for nearly two months.

"I'm being harassed by my bill collectors. My lights are about to be cut off if I don't pay something on them," said Norman.

For 22 years, Norman has worked for Asi, a 34-year-old not-for-profit agency that provides in-home services for the elderly. It depends on the state of Illinois for 95 percent of its funding and over three hundred employees here have missed their last three paychecks because the state has not reimbursed Asi since last summer.

"I want to know where's my money, what is goin' on that you can't pay us," said Norman.

Even though they haven't been paid since mid-October, most of ASI's office and field staff continues coming to work. Executive director Rebecca Cruz has written letters to the department of aging asking desperately for reimbursement and in return, was threatened by another state agency.

"It's interesting. They don't pay us but then I get another state agency saying it's wrong that I'm not paying the Department of Labor from the state of Illinois," said Cruz.

When told at the Thompson Center that over 300 workers had missed six weeks of pay, Gov. Pat Quinn said he's still working on a $900 million to make ends meet until the end of the year.

"I have proposed a borrowing. We're working details out and hope to have them done very quickly," said Quinn.

State comptroller Dan Hynes--who's running for Quinn's job--says there are now $4.5 billion in unpaid state bills and that the governor is avoiding "catastrophe" until after the February primary.

"I basically am managing the crisis that the governor is unable to fix," said Hynes.

Meanwhile, Addie Norman is afraid to quit $10.40 an hour job because she's afraid that in this economy she wouldn't find anything else. And there's another reason she hasn't quit.

"All my clients seem to need me. So, I don't want to leave them. That's why I haven't quit," said Norman.

Comptroller Hynes says the number of creditor calls to his office has risen to about 3,000 a week. He speculates there are workers at many other social service agencies who are not being paid and clients who are not being served because of the deadbeat state government.

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