Monday, June 11, 2012

Life in "Progress" State - Illinois edition

Illinois lawmakers have found a way to whittle $1.3 billion from state government’s massive backlog of unpaid bills, but it comes too late for The Counseling Center of Lake View.

The Chicago nonprofit, a mental health services provider, shut down at the end of April, waiting on about $200,000 in state money.

Anticipating an annual summer stall in the already-slow payments and eroded by years of cuts in state funding, Executive Director Sharon Kayser said the agency opted to close and find new places for 400 clients rather than continue to slowly fade away.

“It’s really hard to put together a budget and run a business with that level of uncertainty. Payments, they typically stop around May and don’t pick up again until September,” she said Thursday as she tied up the center’s loose ends. “It was only going to get worse.”

Across Illinois, the now $8.5 billion backlog has become a fact of life for people doing business with the state. 

As The Associated Press reported in a series last fall, the state has turned to a deliberate policy of not paying billions of dollars in bills for months at a time, creating a cycle of hardship and sacrifice for residents and businesses helping the state carry out some of its most crucial tasks.

Public schools, as of late May, are waiting on $562 million, social services $329 million and Medicaid $944 million, according to the state Comptroller’s Office. While the damage has been extreme for Illinoisans like Kayser, others have found ways to deal with what they call the new normal, such as service cuts and funding from other sources, including the federal government, private grants and donations.


No comments: