* Comptroller Susana Mendoza is speaking to the City Club today, and the Tribune has a little primer about her battle with Gov. Bruce Rauner. From that piece…
That’s resulted in multiple attacks from Rauner over how Mendoza has prioritized payments during the impasse. Rauner first raised concerns over how much money the comptroller was setting aside for so-called hardship payments to social service providers within the Department of Aging. Those are payments that get rushed to businesses on the verge of closing or missing payroll because the state is so far behind in paying its bills. The Rauner administration said Mendoza cut that fund to $7 million a month from $20 million a month under Munger, putting groups that care for the elderly at risk.
Mendoza shot back that Rauner was cherry-picking issues in an effort to make her look bad, saying there was simply less money to go around as the state is coming out of a time of year where tax receipts are historically low so there is not as much cash on hand. Mendoza said she has requested help from the governor’s office on identifying groups who need expedited payments but instead received a letter from the administration noting it was Mendoza’s duty to decide how spending is prioritized.
* The Rauner administration just put out this press release…
The Rauner Administration today called on Comptroller Susana Mendoza to reverse her disturbing decision to cut payments to social service organizations serving our state’s most vulnerable residents.
“Hardship payments” are high-priority payments that executive branch agencies routinely send to the Office of the Comptroller to ensure services to our most vulnerable continue. At the Department on Aging, for example, these hardship payments are a lifeline for Community Care Program providers serving elderly populations. As reported today by the Chicago Tribune, while former Comptroller Leslie Munger had allowed the Department on Aging to pay $20 million in hardship payments every month, Comptroller Mendoza has reduced that allotment to $7 million, jeopardizing services.
In a letter to Comptroller Mendoza’s office, Department on Aging Director Jean Bohnoff wrote, “We once again urge the Comptroller to reverse the recent reductions in hardship allotments and increase them to at least $20 million per month to help us avert a crisis in all regions of the State by doing what we can to keep our provider network afloat.”
* From that letter to the comptroller…
In conversations with my staff, you informed us that hardship request would only be considered for those providers who could supply both a letter from their bank stating that they no longer had access to credit and a separate letter stating what the hardship request would be used for. Considering that none of the Department’s providers have been paid for services to non-Medicaid clients for all of FY2017, and many of them are struggling to get by on the meager hardship payments that have been released, I feel that this request would be unduly burdensome when they are losing staff and having to withhold payments to their staff, their vendors, and even the State in the form of payroll and other taxes. Furthermore, the decision to only pay “non-current” vouchers may force many smaller providers, who have been increasingly turning to the Department for help, to close their doors and stop serving some of the State’s most vulnerable citizens. That, in turn, would end up with many seniors being forced to leave their homes prematurely and enter nursing homes, imposing an even greater cost on the State.
Indicative of the plight of these small to medium providers is the letter that you recently received from one of our largest providers—Community Care Systems, Inc. That letter laid out their request for $4.8 million in on-going monthly hardship assistance in order for them to continue to operate in all areas of the State and meet their payroll needs. With such a large provider struggling to meet current payrolls, just think about how smaller providers are struggling more with multiple missed payrolls.
* The governor’s office is right that they requested money for Community Care Systems, Inc. What they don’t mention above is that an earlier letter sent by the same state agency director [click here] claimed the organization could go out of business if it wasn’t paid immediately. That letter was sent on February 28th - three weeks ago. It’s still in business.
The governor appointed the owner of that provider to the chairmanship of the state’s Procurement Policy Board back in 2015. He also owns the popular Route 66 Hotel & Conference Center just south of Springfield in Southern View. The late Judy Baar Topinka kicked off her comptroller’s reelection campaign in the hotel’s parking lot back in 2014.
* Back to today’s Tribune story…
The goal is to now extend that [anti-Madigan] branding to Mendoza, said a Republican operative who dismissed the notion that infighting between the two offices could reflect badly on both the comptroller and the governor given the delicate nature of running a state that’s gone without a full budget since July 2015.
“As opposed to when Munger was there, there is more chaos that can be blamed on (Mendoza), because these things weren’t happening prior to her coming into office,” the operative said. “I think people are very smart and astute and they know it’s not a coincidence that the person Madigan recruited for the office is pulling the strings. That’s a very believable argument for people, whether it’s true or not.” [Emphasis added.]
If they weren’t playing these obvious games, it would be a whole lot easier to pile on Mendoza. Just sayin…
* You can watch Mendoza’s City Club address by clicking here.