Cook County Record

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Social service agencies' motion: State must pay now, or risk statewide 'public emergency'

By Jonathan Bilyk | May 26, 2016

Springfield capitol

Three weeks since filing suit to ask a Cook County judge to order Illinois’ state government to pay their organizations what they believe they are owed, a coalition that has now grown to more than 80 Illinois social service agencies have decided the situation has now become a “public emergency across the state” requiring emergency action from the courts to order Springfield to cough up the money to allow the agencies to continue functioning.

On Wednesday, May 25, the coalition calling itself Pay Now Illinois amended its lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking the judge to issue an injunction ordering the state government – which continues to be locked in a political stalemate over the state’s finances - to begin paying them immediately the more than $100 million the agencies said they are collectively owed for work they have performed on behalf of Illinois residents under contracts with the state

Earlier this month, the Pay Now coalition, which includes agencies who work with children, senior citizens, rehabilitating substance abusers, those with AIDS and those searching for employment, among many others, had filed its Cook County lawsuit against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and several state agencies that contract with the nonprofit groups to work with some of the state’s most vulnerable populations.

They said the lawsuit was needed to spur the state to pay them for work they have already performed, under the terms of their contracts with the various state agencies.

The plaintiff social service agencies are represented by attorneys with the firm of Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan, of Chicago.

In its May 25 filing, however, Pay Now noted the final judgment could still be months away, and the agencies need the money now if they are to continue paying their bills and providing the essential services.

“This case represents a public emergency,” the filing said. “Plaintiffs together make up a vast infrastructure for delivering State-funded human services. Without an order requiring payment of the overdue bills, that infrastructure may well collapse.”

Additionally, the agencies said they worry that, if the current fiscal year, ending June 30, comes and goes without legislation appropriating the state money to pay them, they may miss the opportunity to submit the payment vouchers for the money for the work they have performed without payment since last summer.

“Plaintiffs are alleging more than irreparable injury to themselves; rather they are complaining of a public emergency across the state,” the filing said.

The complaint has also been amended to add Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, and the director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority to the roster of state defendants in the case.

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Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner