A new committee designed to help ease the financial pressure on
Illinois nonprofit organizations is an
excellent, though too-rare, example
of public servants directly responding
to constituents’ needs.
In this case, they’re the needs of highly
regarded social-service agencies on
the brink of shuttering their operations
because of Deadbeat Illinois’ mountainous
backlog of unpaid bills.
Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka in
July formed the Nonprofit Advisory Council,
which is composed of leaders from 17
social service organizations statewide.
Their aim is to strengthen the lines of communication between the comptroller’s office and the nonprofit community.
The group also hopes to highlight the effects of delayed state payments and advise
policymakers on ways to ease the backlog, which currently stands at $4.1 billion
because of a temporary influx of cash. It’s expected to jump to $7 billion by the end of
August, and state officials predict it could soar to $9 billion by December.
“Nonprofit organizations are a vital resource in Illinois, providing critical services to
people across the state,” said Valerie Lies, president of the nonprofit Donors Forum
and a member of the Nonprofit Advisory Council. “But Illinois is the worst in the nation –
by a wide margin – when it comes to overdue bills to nonprofits.”
The state’s bill backlog is far from victimless. Both small businesses and nonprofits are
suffering as a result of the state not paying its bills to them.
In the case of nonprofits, social service agencies are critical to all Illinoisans. Nonprofits provide services to infants, families, children and senior citizens. They help the poor and the disenfranchised. They provide support for education, health and wellness, homelessness and unemployment. They aid battered women, abuse victims, foster children, drug addicts, the mentally ill and the disabled.
In short, social services agencies are vital to the health, safety and well being of Illinoisans everywhere – both directly and indirectly. For these organizations to go without adequate and timely payments from the state of Illinois for services they have provided is disgraceful.
The same goes for businesses that provide services and products for the state, knowing they risk going unpaid for months. They, too, are vital to Illinoisans everywhere, and they deserve to be paid in a timely manner.
Establishing the Nonprofit Advisory Council is a good step toward ensuring social service agencies are heard and assisted in their quest to be paid.
The comptroller should consider establishing a second council to similarly aid companies – especially smaller, locally owned businesses – that also are having financial difficulties as they wait to be paid.