Social service agencies sue Illinois state leaders for missed pa - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Social service agencies sue Illinois state leaders for missed payments

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WSIL -- More than 60 social service organizations in Illinois have filed a lawsuit against Governor Bruce Rauner and several state agency leaders.

They are demanding tens of millions of dollars for work performed on behalf of the state that's gone unpaid since July of last year.

Most of the organizations focus on social work, providing services like foster care and substance abuse treatment, which benefit many in southern Illinois. They're going after state leaders for contracting for those services but then never paying, due to the Illinois budget impasse.

"Social service agencies in good faith signed contracts with the state of Illinois to provide services and we've been upholding our obligations," said Michelle Bradley, a regional director for Caritas, which provides therapy and foster care, among other services.

At the Carterville branch, the state owes money for counseling services for troubled youth and their families.

"We are owed $350,000 for this program alone," Bradley said.

The general assembly passed funding bills for contracts like this last year, which Rauner vetoed.

However, state leaders went forward with the contracts anyway.

Social services argue there's no legal authority to refuse to pay, claiming "the entire infrastructure of state supported social services is at risk of collapse."

Now it's up to the courts to decide.

"The likely result will be that the court says, 'yes, these folks have a contract and they should be paid,'" said Sheila Simon, SIU law professor and former Illinois Lieutenant Governor.

Simon thinks the group makes a solid case. They want the court to declare the governor's veto Illegal and mandate immediate and full payment.

It's money Bradley said she needs now to keep the Caritas therapy program in Carterville going.

"So our fear is that while we are waiting for a budget and the funds to become available, these young people are going to end up in prisons and in detention centers," Bradley said.

In response to this lawsuit, a spokesperson for Governor Rauner tells News 3, "While we understand that frustration is driving many worthwhile organizations to seek solutions anywhere, including the courts, the only solution is for the General Assembly to pass a balanced reform oriented budget as soon as possible."

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