More missed paychecks reported amid state debts

April 29, 2011 3:56:51 PM PDT
Some healthcare workers on Chicago's North Side say they have not received their paychecks for a second time.

The company they work for is owed nearly $2 million by the State of Illinois.

Having a paycheck delayed because of the Illinois budget crisis is nothing new for employees at the Asi Home Care Agency in Wicker Park.

However, for Debbie Collins, one of nearly 300 workers who assist homebound elderly clients, missing two consecutive paychecks is pushing the limit:

"It's a struggle - I mean, how do they expect us to live? The bills get behind, then you get disconnection notices - it's a bit too much," said Collins.

The Illinois Department on Aging owes Asi nearly $1.8 million with some of the invoices over three months old. The agency has maxed out its credit line.

Supervisor Jan Kuchii has worked there for more than 30 years.

"Some people have talked about their credit being ruined because they're not able to pay their bills on time, and that's a real issue for people who really are trying and struggling to keep working."

Governor Pat Quinn wants to borrow $8 billion to pay off the state's bill backlog and take the pressure off agencies and their employees. The governor has threatened to withhold income tax revenues from towns and cities to pressure state lawmakers from those jurisdictions to approve a loan.

On Thursday, Republican Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, whose office writes the checks, repeated her opposition.

"This is like getting one credit card to pay for the credit card you maxed out, which pays for the credit card you maxed out, and so on down the line," said Topinka.

Despite not having been paid since April 1st, the vast majority of Asi's home care workers continue to serve the agency's 900 elderly clients without being paid for their work.

"If the people that's not paying us, if I had to take care of their mom and dad, or their relatives, I would be there for them even though I didn't get a paycheck," said Collins.

If the governor makes good on his threat to withhold state income tax payments to Illinois towns and cities, it would put at risk over $200 million that Chicago receives from the state annually - money the budget-challenged city needs in the worst way.