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.”
A complete copy of Director Bohnoff’s letter to Comptroller Mendoza’ office appears below.
March 20, 2017
Kevin Schoeben, Assistant Comptroller
Illinois Office of the Comptroller
325 W Adams Street
Springfield IL 62704
RE: Aging Hardship Payments
Dear Mr. Schoeben:
I am writing to you to reiterate my serious concerns about the Comptroller’s recent decision to reduce the monthly allotment for hardship payments for the State’s most vulnerable and the recent decision to take a first-in, first-out approach to approving the payment of vouchers.
As noted in my letter of February 27th, the Comptroller’s Office had been providing at least $20 million per month for hardship payments until January and February of this year. In return, the Department agreed to coordinate provider requests for payments. Most recently, a $2 million allotment for which we provided a list of requested payments was, without prior consultation, reduced to $1.5 million by your office. In addition, a provider who had not contacted the Department was added and requested provider payments were reduced or eliminated based solely on voucher creation dates.
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.
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 crises in all regions of the State by doing what we can to keep our provider network afloat. We strongly urge you to reconsider the unnecessarily burdensome request that providers be required to provide letters from both their banks and themselves every time they ask for a hardship payment and once again go back to allowing the Department to work with our providers directly to determine who to assist and how best to do it without applying arbitrary first-in, first-out rules. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my office.
Department on Aging Director