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Wed, 15 Jun 2016
A New Dilemma
While Illinois lawmakers play chicken with the budget for the 2016 fiscal year, which is just days from ending, its Pay Now Illinois creditors face a new dilemma. You’ll recall that the social service companies and agencies that provide essential services have become de facto creditors to the state because we haven’t been paid for nearly 12 months. We are the 81 plaintiffs in the Pay Now Illinois lawsuit against the governor, state comptroller and seven agency department heads seeking immediate payment of about $130 million for services that have been rendered under signed contracts.

As the case moves through the legal process (next hearing is set for July 13), it’s important to remember we didn’t start out being their creditors. We started out being service providers for vulnerable populations. But since the state isn’t paying its bills, we have in fact been lending them money. With no interest. For nearly a year, the state has been getting something for nothing; we are helping to keep the state alive. And now we are drowning. Some agencies are closing doors. Others are slashing programs. Staff is being cut.

While we wait to see how our lawsuit plays out, here’s our Catch-22. With the approach of Fiscal Year 2017 on July 1 2016, we must decide whether to sign new contracts with the State of Illinois to provide a wide range of services including help for the homeless, in-home healthcare for seniors, mental health counseling and jobs training. Our Boards of Directors are wrestling with a very real dilemma — do you sign a contract with somebody who owes you for a year of unpaid bills, exacerbated by the reality that there is no certainty of future payment? Or do you turn your back on the very individuals, families, and communities you have pledged to serve?

The administration is asking providers right now to prepare and submit budgets, complete mandatory paperwork, and even in some cases, re- apply for their funding under a competitive grant process. They are working to implement the Grants Accountability and Transparency Act requirements on our FY17 contracts, holding us accountable in new and changing ways to the terms of our contracts, when they can offer us NO assurances that we will be paid for the work we do under those contracts. As we contemplate whether to extend Illinois “more credit,” we are cognizant of the fact that the state’s credit rating is plunging. Each day that passes, the state is a riskier and riskier business partner. That bodes badly for us and our clients. But it also bodes badly for all Illinoisans.
Posted 14:52

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