State says it’s fielding 5,000 calls a week from creditors

SHARE State says it’s fielding 5,000 calls a week from creditors
SHARE State says it’s fielding 5,000 calls a week from creditors

Illinois faces a bill backlog and cash shortage so severe, the state comptroller’s office juggles 5,000 calls a week from vendors asking for their money.

The competing demands for a piece of the state’s financial pie as it muddles through a budget crisis have kept the comptroller’s office from complying with a court order to pay for services for developmentally disabled adults on time, lawyers for the state told a federal judge Friday.

Those problems are tied to the fact that the state has operated without a budget for nearly two months but is compelled to pay out about $2 billion each month to comply with court orders or other mandated expenses, a filing in federal court stated.

The office last week made some $786million in payments in other areas — including $188 million toward K-12 schools — as well as to pay off debt, state payroll, child care, foster care and Medicaid.

“Payments in this case do not exist in a vacuum. They compete against the state’s other obligations, many of which arealso covered by court orders,” the filing indicates. “The state is operating at a deficit of a minimum of $300 million per month to make payments necessary to cover all of the state’s priority obligations.”

U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ordered the state to explain which bills it paid before it paid social services agencies the money due to them.

Coleman’s order followed a failure by the state to pay by the Aug. 21 deadline the judge had set. She stopped short of finding the state in contempt of court, but demanded it providing an accounting of its bill paying Friday.

Advocacy groups went to court arguing the state’s failure to make payments to agencies providing services to those with disabilities put providers at risk of closure.

Closure could displace thousands of people with profound developmental disabilities.

The comptroller’s office cut a $71 million check on Tuesday to pay social service agencies. On Monday, the Sun-Times reported the state had not paid some $120 million it has owed, in violation of a court order.

In a filing Friday, the state said the comptroller’s office receives 5,000 phone calls a week from vendors asking for payment.Illinois must still pay $650 million in back payments from FY15.

“Because of the state’s cash-flow problems, the comptroller must evaluate on a daily basis the amount of cash on hand and determine which payments may be made,” the filing stated. “While the state will continue to diligently process payments to providers under theLigasconsent decree, it is not possible for the state to commit to making each of many specific payments on specific days.”

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in the case said they will file a response with the court on Monday.

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