* From the twitters…
*** UPDATE 1 *** The comptroller’s office says the above tweet is in error. There was no finding of contempt, just an order to make the payments. Consequently, the headline on this post has been changed.
*** UPDATE 2 *** From Tony…
Rich Carter called me about the tweet after seeing it posted on the blog. I told him what I’ll tell you, just so you have it, and then you can do with it as you want, although I’m sure you don’t want to be in the middle of all the back-and-forth.
Did the judge say the state was in contempt? Not outright. She said not following the court order, and even not telling her that the order wasn’t going to be followed ahead of time, would put them in contempt.
Brent Stratton agreed with the judge that they didn’t tell the court on Friday that the comptroller wouldn’t be making payments that day.
So maybe for the purposes of twitter, I could’ve added more nuance to that tweet. But the judge defined what being in contempt looks like, and the AG agreed their actions fit that description. I tried to clarify that in a second tweet.
That’s what I got for you.
Hope you’re doing well in your recovery.
*** UPDATE 3 *** From the comptroller…
Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger released the following statement Wednesday in response to a Federal Court order involving the Ligas Consent Decree impacting services for people with developmental disabilities:
“I appreciate the Court’s recognition of the difficult challenge we face in making necessary payments in light of Illinois’ continued failure to pass a balanced budget.
“My priority remains to ensure that organizations serving our elderly, children and other most vulnerable residents take precedence when it comes to state payments. As a longtime volunteer and former Board member for an organization serving the intellectually and developmentally disabled, I know firsthand the hardship that is caused when payments don’t arrive as scheduled, and I will do everything in my power to lead the state in keeping its promises to those most in need.
“In the absence of a balanced budget for this fiscal year, my office will continue to work to meet the payment timelines set by the Courts despite the state’s limited resources.
“To be clear: taxpayers deserve better than government by Court Order. Ultimately, we can best serve Illinois families, businesses and organizations by passing a balanced budget that includes reforms that will allow us to become more competitive and grow our economy so we can put people back to work and fund critical services.”
*** UPDATE 4 *** Tribune…
[ *** End Of Updates *** ]
Coleman, who noted that she was not pleased to have been called back from vacation to hear the case, said the state risked being held in contempt of court and ordered that it provide an accounting of which bills have and have not been paid.
The judge also said she understood the comptroller’s predicament. Without a budget, state government has been spending at a rate billions of dollars beyond what it is set to take in, mostly because of a series of maneuvers by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democrat-controlled legislature and a number of court orders requiring it to continue paying for services during the impasse.
William Choslovsky, a lawyer representing residents at Misericordia, was less forgiving. He suggested to Coleman that the Rauner administration and the comptroller’s office were willfully withholding the money.
For checks to go out, the Rauner-run Department of Human Services must first authorize the payments by sending a voucher to the comptroller, who then decides when to cut the check. But lawyers representing both the state and the comptroller could not provide answers as to which bills have and have not been paid.
* Some background…
Attorneys representing 10,000 Illinois residents with disabilities filed an emergency motion in federal court on Tuesday asking that the state be held “in civil contempt of court,” for failing to pay service providers’ bills. Some payments have been on hold since July 1.
“Many of these individuals cannot feed, clothe, or toilet themselves or administer critical medication needed on a daily basis,” plaintiffs’ attorneys, represented by Equip for Equality, wrote in the emergency motion.
Munger’s office says it couldn’t make payments on time because of a “severe cash shortage,” but Democrats don’t buy it.
“There’s cash coming in every day. There should be plenty of cash. They’ve been paying various vendors faster than they have for years,” Brown told the Sun-Times. “I’m afraid the comptroller’s office has been misleading the media and the courts.”
The motion is here.
The amount owed for July is about $120 million.
* More background from Ed McManus, with emphasis added…
Attorneys for Illinois residents with developmental disabilities filed an emergency motion in federal court today asking that state officials be ordered to show cause why they should not be held in contempt of court for violating last week’s court order to immediately resume making payments to provider agencies.
A hearing Is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman in Chicago.
Coleman last Tuesday ordered the state to make the payments by Friday, but only a few payments have been made. “It is inarguable that the situation is dire, as residents’ lives literally hang in the balance,” the attorneys said in their motion. It was filed by Barry Taylor and Laura Miller of Equip for Equality and Ben Wolf of the ACLU on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Ligas lawsuit and two attorneys for ICFDD residents, William Choslovsky and Scott Mendel. Named as defendants were Felicia Norwood, director of the Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services; James Dimas, secretary of the Dept. of Human Services; and Comptroller Leslie Munger.
Violation of order on expedited payments: Last week’s order required the state to make payments for FY16 services at a level no less than FY15 until a new state budget is adopted. The judge also ordered that “providers that were paid on an expedited basis during FY15 shall be paid on the same expedited basis for services rendered during FY16.” But the head of DHS’s expedited payment program said this morning in a letter to a provider that the expedited payment program was suspended.
A CILA provider in the south suburbs sent me the letter, and I have forwarded it to the lawyers. It appears to be in clear violation of Judge Coleman’s order. The letter, from Mary E. Collier, manager of the bureau of expenditure accounting in the DHS Office of Fiscal Services, says: “This letter is to inform you that the Illinois Office of the Comptroller is current in processing the FY15 vouchers for DHS. Therefore, the expedite program has been suspended. After the FY16 budget impasse has been resolved, the expedite program will be reevaluated for restarting expedited payments.”
NEEDED: ‘A DATE CERTAIN’ WHEN PAYMENTS WILL BE MADE . . .
In their emergency motion seeking immediate payment of all Medicaid bills, the attorneys said if the payments are not made, “numerous providers will immediately close their doors, and thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities will not receive services that are essential to their survival. . . . The state must account for its repeated and ongoing failure to comply with this court’s orders.” They asked that the three officials be directed to appear in court and provide an explanation for why they have failed to comply “and to provide a date certain in the immediate future when the state will comply before this court holds them in civil contempt of court.”
Despite the judge’s order on Aug. 18, the state did not make the required payments by Aug. 21, the motion said. “In fact, it is now Aug. 25, and all of the mandated payments still have not been paid.” (The Division of DD issued a statement yesterday saying that DHS had forwarded $120 million in vouchers to the comptroller last week and that the comptroller would begin paying a portion of them last night “and will continue working through the vouchers as funds are available. At this point, we cannot give you a specific time frame of how long it will take.”)
The attorneys said they contacted the lawyer representing the state in the Ligas case Friday and he acknowledged that the payments had not been paid. “He could not explain why, nor could he say when payments would be made.” They asked him to call them over the weekend or on Monday morning as he learned more information, but he did not. “Late Monday, counsel for the state finally called and advised that some of the payments for providers on the expedited payment program would begin that evening, but he could not say when all expedited payments would be made” or when payments to ICFDDs would be made.
The comptroller’s website showed that the comptroller paid bills totaling $243 million yesterday but did not pay the disability providers, and that the comptroller still had $70 million on hand at the end of the day.
Editorial comment: The state administration has really failed our disability community. Both the governor and the legislature share the blame for the budget mess, but while that stalemate drags on, it is inexcusable that Gov. Rauner and his staff are holding our providers–and the people they serve–hostage.
Judge Coleman first issued an order June 30 that all payments be made. But Secretary Dimas on July 23 notified providers that he was narrowly interpreting that order to apply only to the relatively few people actually receiving services through the Ligas consent decree. The plaintiffs’ attorneys challenged that in a motion for a new order Aug. 6, and the state’s lawyer told the judge that “the administration has changed its position” and that all Medicaid payments would be made. But “I can’t give you a specific date,” he said. A week later, he still couldn’t, and the judge finally ordered that it be done by Friday. But again, nothing on Friday.
Meanwhile, state employees are getting their paychecks on time, and the governor approved the appropriation to assure that all public schools will be paid.
DHS didn’t forward the July vouchers to the comptroller until last week?