Munger: State will pay to help young kids with disabilities

 
 
Updated 9/16/2015 8:37 PM
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  • Nicole Molinaro provides early intervention services in Cary, and the state has reversed course to start paying for the program despite the lack of a budget.

      Nicole Molinaro provides early intervention services in Cary, and the state has reversed course to start paying for the program despite the lack of a budget. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Illinois will start paying for a program to help care for young children with disabilities, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger announced Wednesday.

The early intervention service is one of many on the list of state programs not getting money since July 1 as Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers battle over the state budget.

But Munger said Wednesday that the services can be paid through a federal consent decree, and she said she'll start the process of arranging for the payments.

"I know the tremendous benefits that early intervention services can provide to our delayed and disabled infants and toddlers," Munger said in a statement. "And I was extremely concerned when I learned many providers would likely be suspending their vital therapeutic services at the end of this month."

The services help infant and toddlers with disabilities, and the state helps pay for the care. But when the state isn't making payments to local organizations that provide the services, they risk having to close their doors. The nonprofits often don't operate with large cash reserves to hold them over.

Algonquin therapist Nicole Molinaro, who was profiled with her young clients in Sunday's Daily Herald, said she hadn't heard of Munger's announcement yet and said it can be hard for local providers to get good information from the state.

"Maybe it's working, finally," Molinaro said.

Still, it's unclear how fast the money will come. Munger's office said it'll pay vouchers from the state Department of Human Services when they arrive at her office and that she's setting up accounts so checks can go out.

State Rep. David McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said he called Molinaro and others Sunday and Monday and deemed Munger's announcement a rare bit of good news during the ongoing budget impasse.

The state has been making payments despite not having a budget because a handful of lawsuits and federal decrees are requiring Illinois to pay for a wide range of services, from employee payroll to some programs that take care of people with disabilities.

Munger has warned that those court decisions are spending more money than the state is set to take in and has projected Illinois to have a deficit of more than $8 billion at the end of the year if Rauner and lawmakers don't craft a spending plan soon.

The Illinois House is set to return to Springfield next week, but no serious proposal to end the standoff is being considered. Molinaro is among the advocates planning to rally at the Capitol next week.

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