Senator Syverson’s Week in Review: September 14 – 18, 2015

Comptroller to begin making payments for early childhood intervention

On Wednesday, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger announced that her office would immediately begin making payments to early intervention providers who work with disabled infants and toddlers to create developmental strategies.

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) applauded the Comptroller’s move, saying that providing funding to vital state services like this one needs to be a priority as legislative Democrats continue to stymie budget negotiations with short-sighted, incomplete budgetary measures. 

The Comptroller’s office looked more closely at several active consent decrees and determined that early intervention services were covered. This determination allowed her office to begin the process of setting up accounts so that payments can be processed as soon as it begins to receive vouchers from the Department of Human Services (DHS).

“I know the tremendous benefits that early intervention services can provide to our delayed and disabled infants and toddlers, and I was extremely concerned when I learned many providers would likely be suspending their vital therapeutic services at the end of this month,” Munger said. “My office is working today to set up the accounts and we will immediately begin making payments to Early Intervention providers as soon as we receive vouchers from DHS so we can avoid further hardships.”

Preliminary PARCC results released

Preliminary statewide results from last spring’s Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers Exam (PARCC) were released this week, causing concern for some as a number of Illinois students fell short of expectations. State Schools Superintendent Tony Smith, however, stressed that these results should serve as a baseline for schools and student and cautions against using them to “shame or punish” anyone.

The PARCC exam, based on the Common Core standards, measures what students should know for their grade level, emphasizing the importance of skills like critical thinking and problem-solving. PARCC replaced the Prairie State Achievement Examination, which had been administered to high school juniors, and the Illinois Standards Achievement Test, which had previously been used to assess grade school students.

While some have expressed frustration over Common Core and PARCC, others argue that this new curriculum and testing is here to stay. They maintain that instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Illinois should focus on fixing the flaws in the new system so the state can ensure students are properly prepared for higher education and the work-world.

However, other parents and educators are concerned about the pace at which the state is moving forward with Common Core standards and PARCC testing, arguing that many schools don’t have the necessary technology to administer the exams. Additionally, critics worry that the Common Core curriculum isn’t ready for the classroom and suggest the testing could negatively affect children.

2015 harvest picks up steam

As fall approaches, the harvest has begun for many farmers across Illinois. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the statewide corn harvest is now 6% complete, up from just 2% during the previous week, though still below the 5-year average of 12%. A total of 61% of the corn crop is now rated as mature, which is actually above the 5-year average of 53%.

Progress shows some strong regional correlation. Corn harvest in the Central, West-Southwest, and Southwest regions of the state has reached 10% complete, while 0% of the Northwest region’s fields have been harvested.

Soybeans continue to make progress as well, with 32% of the plants dropping leaves, which is one of the last steps before maturity. That’s a major increase from just 12% during the previous week. The third cutting of hay is also nearly complete, with 90% of acres now baled.

Benefits for the dead

According to a report from the Better Government Association released earlier this week, more than 1,000 deceased Illinoisans received pension payments from 2010 to 2014.

In one instance more than $90,000 was direct-deposited into the bank account of a woman who had died four and a half years earlier. The woman’s daughter, who had failed to report her mother’s death to the pension fund and instead pocketed the payments, ultimately plead guilty to felony theft.

Read more about this case and other pension payments to the dead in this report from the BGA.

Night and day, Illinois and Indiana

A recent article from Reboot Illinois takes a look at the night-and-day differences between Illinois and neighboring Indiana. The analysis looks at finances of state and large city governments, and the implications these finances have on migration patterns.

Updated Overview of Current State Spending

–  State employee salaries

–  Statewide Medicaid payments under the Department of Healthcare & Family Services and the Department of Human Services – does not include the Department on Aging at this time.

o   Includes supplemental payments to hospitals.

o   The Department will process payments to Medicaid providers as if a budget had been enacted this fiscal year.

–  Department on Aging – Costs related to Colbert consent decree class members only:

o   Colbert class members are former nursing home residents in Cook County who are mentally ill or physically disabled that have transitioned to a community based setting.

–  Department of Children & Family Services – entire agency is funded due to consent decrees:

o   Includes funding for agency operations, Institution and Group Homes, Foster Care, Adoption Services, Scholarships, and other grants covered under the BH Consent Decree.

–  Department of Human Services:

o   Alcohol and Substance Abuse – Medicaid reimbursable costs only.

o   Child Care Assistance Program – court order covers individual providers only, does not include Child Care Centers.

o   Developmental Disabilities – Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF/DDs), Community Integrated Living Arrangements (CILAs), and other community based Medicaid reimbursable services only. 

o   Division of Mental Health – Medicaid reimbursable costs only, except for all costs related to Williams consent decree class members who have transitioned to community based settings from Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMDs).

o   Division of Rehabilitation Services – Home Services Program providers.

o   Family and Community Services – Aid to the Aged, Blind and Disabled (AABD), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Refugee Assistance, Employability Development Services, and Food Stamp Employment and Training.  Early Intervention program payments will be processed in the coming weeks. 

–  Department of Juvenile Justice – entire agency is funded due to consent decrees.

–  Prisoner Review Board – funding to provide legal counsel for juveniles per consent decree.

–  Non-Medicaid reimbursable Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health and Addiction Treatment grants.

–  Autism Grants.

–  Non-Federally funded Public Health Programs – including Local Health Department grants.

Notable Non-GRF Items not currently funded:

–  Lottery Prizes

–  IDOT transit programs

–  Motor Fuel Tax distributions to locals.

–  Gaming revenue distribution to locals.

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