Lambs Farm one of thousands owed by state

March 7, 2013 4:21:58 PM PST
If you dread opening your bills home, imagine getting hit with all of the state of Illinois' unpaid bills, nearly 200,000 of them in all.

The impact of one of those bills on a well-known facility that is the only place some adults with developmental disabilities have ever known.

It's a simple job helping staff and greeting visitors, but without it, many would be left with nowhere to go.

"I would be doing nothing," said Lambs Farm resident Janice Small. I would be doing nothing. I would be doing nothing. I don't have no family at all. I don't have my mother, i don't have my father. I don't have nobody."

Small has worked and lived at Lambs Farm for 52 years. She is one of nearly 200 developmentally disabled adults who receive almost total life care, from room and board to recreation and work.

They make everything from candy delights to dog biscuits. Sales help finance the farm, but 70 percent of Lambs Farms income comes from the state, when it pays.

Right now, it is behind to the tune of $336,565.

"There's the constant threat of cuts," said Lambs Farm President and CEO Dianne Yaconetti. "Now they're changing eligibility requirements we have. It's a serious situation."

Lambs Farm isn't alone.

Documents reviewed by ABC7 reveal Illinois has a total of 178,705 unpaid bills, totaling more than $7 billion.

The state does pay a penalty when it's more than 90 days late. Last year that amount came to $86 million.

"The hard work ahead isn't just on pension reform it's paying down the backlog of bills caused by decades of financial mismanagement," said Governor Pat Quinn.

Quinn has sped up payments a bit, but many vendors wait 4-to-6 months to be paid.

"One of the things our field suffers from is we don't represent enough votes so when they have to make decisions about how to spend money they have, we fall behind a lot of other agencies," Yaconetti said.

At Lambs Farm deadbeat Illinois forced a tough choice. Employees like Lisa Hafford could see programs cut and people turned away or they each lose a week's worth of pay. They chose the furlough days.

"We were trying to help everyone else but the only solution was for us not to get paid," Hafford said.

The staff at Lambs Farm Cut through a forest of red tape and eventually found something called the states "expedited" and "emergency" payment programs that can help an agency get re-paid more quickly.

There are thousands of companies and organizations that have provided services to the state who need their money to cover payroll and expenses and until they get it, they are the ones essentially floating Illinois a low-interest loan.