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Families Agonize while Illinois Lawmakers Go on Vacation

July 6, 2009

CHICAGO, Ill. - The state of Illinois is officially operating without a budget, because Governor Pat Quinn vetoed the latest deal and lawmakers went home for the holiday, and they won't be back for another ten days. Illinois residents will still be able to get their drivers' licenses renewed and the state is still able to pay state troopers and buy office supplies. But families who have loved ones with disabilities are agonizing over what to do without the vital state-provided services that they need for independent living.

Many people with mental illness and developmental disabilities need outside help with things like housekeeping, or getting to their jobs. Neumann Association, a non-profit group, provides such help. But because state lawmakers broke for the holiday without agreement on a budget, and the state owes the agency three million dollars in back payments, CEO Eileen Durkin says she spent the Fourth of July weekend stressed out about the 90 people she couldn't help.

"When we had to turn clients away, staff was weeping."

The governor and legislative leaders are accusing each other of creating the crisis. Durkin says this is a bad situation for everyone.

"We are totally stuck in the middle; I'm not sure that people intended to put us in the middle, but we are totally stuck in the middle."

Durkin says she and her clients had nothing to celebrate during the Fourth of July weekend.

"Politicians were out at parades and waving banners and waving flags; we're all working with our clients and agonizing about what are we going to do this coming week."

Durkin says three of her clients had to be hospitalized for extreme anxiety because they were worried about how they'd manage. She says she can't understand how state lawmakers and the governor could go on vacation for two weeks while so many families are suffering. In the meantime, Durkin is asking Governor Quinn to provide agencies with temporary contracts until the budget impasse is solved

State lawmakers go back into session on July 14th. Some 50 agencies have joined the Neumann Association in the call for temporary contracts.

More information is at www.neumannassociation.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL