State payments slowed to programs for developmentally disabled?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Has the budget crisis forced the state to slow down payments to services that help the most vulnerable? There was a court hearing Wednesday over payments to programs that help the developmentally disabled.

A federal judge has given the budget-challenged state of Illinois 48 hours to explain why it is not spending more of the money it does have to care for its most vulnerable citizens.

"I go to bed at night and I wake up and I think that this has got to be a bad dream," said Ellen McManus.

Ellen McManus and her husband Edward worry that their 39-year-old developmentally-disabled daughter Laura could lose her round-the-clock home care. It's because they say the state of Illinois - still without a budget - has not paid the agency that cares for Laura since June.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that it would come to the day that the money would not be here to support her," Ellen McManus said.

In Chicago, lawyers for care providers alleged the state comptroller's office had violated a 2011 federal court order that it prioritize payments to those agencies that care for the developmentally disabled.

"People with developmental disabilities, if they do not receive the payments they're entitled to, are going to end up homeless or in large, expensive, state-operated institutions," said Barry Taylor, plaintiff's attorney.

"The state is picking and choosing who to pay. There's a court order that says they can't do that," said Bill Choslovsky, Misericordia Home.

Comptroller Leslie Munger does not deny her office has paid other agencies and vendors since June.

She wrote on Wednesday: "...I will do everything in my power to lead the state in keeping its promises to those most in need..." and "...to be clear: taxpayers deserve better than government by court order."

"The actual state officials have never been in court. I think that's the next step is the judge is going to have to bring them in and say 'well, what's going on here?'" Edward McManus said.

The McManuses are in their late 70's and no longer have the money or space to care for Laura. They fear she is weeks or even days from being institutionalized.

"She would be with people that she doesn't know, people who do not know how to care for her. All these things that make her life stable and secure would be taken away," Ellen McManus said.

The comptroller's office and its lawyers would not take questions Wednesday, nor would they comment on reports the state has a cash-flow problem caused by its lack of a budget.

The comptroller is still trying to reduce a multibillion-dollar bill backlog.
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