Unpaid bills undercut state's business partners

2011-10-17T06:00:00Z 2011-10-17T21:26:11Z Unpaid bills undercut state's business partnersThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 17, 2011 6:00 am  • 

Ambulance operators, pharmacists, aircraft repairmen, produce providers, funeral home directors, even racing horse owners.

Illinois businesses large and small have suffered as state government’s failure to promptly pay its bills became the status quo. While all business owners are suffering through the nation’s economic problems, the state’s inability to pay its debts for months at a time has forced these vendors and service providers to borrow money, lay off staff, cut salaries and more.

A look at a state ledger provided by the Illinois Comptroller’s Office showed roughly $67 million in overdue bills primarily from businesses as of early September. The late tab for cars and gasoline was $2.7 million. Auditing and management services were owed $4.5 million. Computer software cost $2.7 million.

Some businesses shared their stories of what it’s like to work with the state, plead for relief and endure the long wait for payment:

Keep ’em flying

JACKSONVILLE — Even the guy who keeps state government’s planes in the air can’t get paid on time. Illinois owed $15,668 dollars to Klem’s Aero Repair as of early September, with some bills stretching back to the beginning of May.

Owner Irvin Klemmensen said he got one check in August for work he had done in January on the five planes he tends from an overall fleet the state uses for state police and other business.

Klemmensen used to have two employees at his Jacksonville business, but he had to lay them off a couple of years ago. “I can’t afford to have anybody else. The state is the biggest cause of it,” he said.

State checks used to come like clockwork, Klemmensen said. Now they come in fits and starts so that he can’t count on the money.

Eye of the storm

BLOOMINGTON — Even businesses that were not owed a lot by the state as of early September may simply be in the eye of the state’s funding storm.

For example, Bloomington-based Heritage Enterprises, which owns or manages nursing homes and assisted- and supportive-living facilities statewide, was owed $15,489.86 as of Sept. 8, according to the state ledger.

But Heritage President and CEO Steve Wannemacher said last week that Heritage — like other Medicaid providers — benefited from federal stimulus legislation, which required that states using federal matching stimulus money to pay their bills within 30 days. As a result, the state was current in paying Heritage to care for Medicaid patients as of June 30.

With federal stimulus money gone, Heritage has received no Medicaid payments from the state since then and Wannemacher isn’t expecting another payment until January.

“So, we’re going to be right back in the soup,” he said. “But we’re a strong company. We’ve been around for 50 years. We’ll figure it out.”

Emergency service

PEORIA — Illinois owes the largest downstate ambulance company more than $750,000, and that business soon will cut services to stop the budget shortfalls.

After November, Advanced Medical Transport will no longer contract with the state to transport patients with behavioral problems, said company president Andrew Rand.

AMT now has two state contracts — one to transport the patients with behavioral problems, the other to provide a variety of Medicaid services for emergency medical care.

“The state only funded the program for six months this year,” Rand said. “Our present cost of care is more than double what AMT is reimbursed by Medicaid. The state hasn’t changed our reimbursement in 10 years. It’s awful.”

Helping out

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS — Charlie Kassly said he can understand how some funeral homes choose not to provide services to Illinois families on public aid.

The co-owner of Kassly Mortuary in Fairview Heights said the state owed his company about $6,500 as of Sept. 8 for burials of indigent people. At times, Illinois has owed the mortuary as much as $12,000.

“It’s not a large amount, but it’s an amount,” he said.

He said funeral homes like his help out “a lot of needy families.” But the list of those willing to do it may be getting shorter.

Paul Swiech of The Pantagraph, Christopher Wills of The Associated Press, Steve Tarter of the Peoria Journal Star and Brian Brueggemann, Belleville News-Democrat contributed to this report.

 

Illinois’ overdue list by county

Its budget still dramatically out of balance, the state of Illinois has

adopted a policy of not paying its

bills on time. Businesses, charities, schools — all those and more often

wait months to get money the state owes them. The total for bills at least a month overdue to Illinois organizations as of Sept. 8 was

almost $2.1 billion. Here’s the backlog for selected counties:

County    Amount overdue

Champaign    $14.9 million

Dewitt    $878,000

Ford    $960,000

LaSalle    $6.3 million

Livingston    $2.4 million

Logan    $1.9 million

Macon    $8.5 million

McLean    $48.2 million

Peoria    $21.2 million

Piatt    $731,000

Sangamon    $322 million

Tazewell    $7.1 million

Woodford    $1.7 million

Source: Calculations based on data from the Illinois comptroller

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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