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Illinois Five Months Behind on Payments

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 By Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Contact
April 16, 2008

Springfield, IL – Illinois is at least five months and $2 billion dollars behind on its bills. The payments are due to organizations that provide state-mandated social services, including family counseling, foster care and assistance for people with disabilities. Today, Lutheran church and agency leaders are in Springfield for "Lutheran Day," and they're asking the state to make good on its debt.

It's none too soon. Illinois residents are calling more often for help. Counseling requests are up 21 percent, and senior assistance requests have risen about 10 percent at some agencies. The Lutheran organizations that have contracts with the state to answer these calls for help are sending their own distress signal.

Bishop Warren Freiheit, Springfield, says they would like to see a 3 percent increase in reimbursement rates for the increasing costs of services they provide on behalf of the state; as well as a promise that payments will be made on time.

"Our Lutheran organizations depend on the state for timely, adequate payment for the services they provide, but the state's reimbursement system is failing us."

Freiheit explains the basic reimbursement rate hasn't changed much in 10 years. He calls the people working at Lutheran agencies "among the most talented and dedicated" employees he has seen in the social services field, but says the state's massive backlog of unpaid reimbursements is a burden they should not be asked to shoulder. Lutheran social service providers work with families and senior citizens facing financial crises, people with disabilities, and children displaced from their homes.

"We're noted for our excellent foster care, chemical dependency care, housing for the elderly and quite a bit of involvement in prison ministries."

About 200 concerned citizens will be at the Capitol in Springfield for "Lutheran Day" at 1:30 PM.

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