No state in the nation has gone this long without a budget or has a bigger backlog of unpaid bills.
One bill – among thousands – was submitted by Autumn Country Club. It’s a an affectionate name for a family-run Joliet adult day care facility. It’s a facility whose owners are contemplating closing because its biggest client is a deadbeat.
The State of Illinois confirms it owes Autumn Adult Day Care $162,000. That represents five months of operating expenses.
“I’m a nervous wreck,” said owner Cassie Waterman. “I don’t know how next month I’m going to continue to run my facility.”
Autumn welcomes 60 senior citizens each day. Some are veterans. Many have special needs. All are under the watchful eye of a registered nurse and a dedicated team of caregivers who lead the group in activities, meals and entertainment.
“We are their safety net,” said registered nurse Christine Doyle. “We try to be their family during the day but they all know they’re going home at the end of the day… and that’s a good thing.”
The Illinois Department on Aging and other state entities contract with Autumn to provide day care for these seniors during the day. The rate, according to Autumn Adult Day Care officials, is $9.02 per hour per person.
But the State of Illinois is far behind in its reimbursements. And Autumn isn’t alone. The Illinois Comptroller’s office reports as of June 21st, the state has a backlog of bills totaling $15,408,038,113. The amount owed in interest totals an additional $800 million.
“I have done nothing but struggle with my small, women-owned, family-owned business because of the way the state pays,” said Waterman.
She blames both Republicans and Democrats.
“These are supposed to be professional politicians and they’re acting like children. If I ran my business that way, they wouldn’t contract with me.”
The state doesn’t dispute that its budget problems are devastating to residents and business owners.
“Autumn Country Club's circumstances are a very real, tangible example of the direct result of continued inaction by the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget, and they should swiftly work to pass the proposed GOP compromise budget bill that is before them,” the Rauner administration said in a statement.
Most of the senior citizens who use Autumn live with family members. The program gives those relatives the opportunity to work or run errands without leaving their elderly loved ones alone. Without the program, some say they might have to move into a nursing home.
Shirley Ealey of Romeoville said the program gives her relatives a break while providing her with an opportunity to get out of the house and be social.
“They have such nice people here,” Ealey said.