Illinois’ political paralysis and the budget backlog are leaving the state unable to appropriate awards of more than $351,000 apiece to widows who lost husbands in the line of duty.
The state of Illinois has been in a budget stalemate for nearly 22 months, with $12.9 billion of unpaid debt piling up, which is allegedly greater than another state, according to Reuters.
Reportedly, the reason for the budgetary backlog stems from the state’s Democratic-led legislature and Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s inability to agree on a list of nonbudgetary demands that he insists must be enacted in the budget. On the list is approval of state workers’ compensation changes, term limits for legislative leaders, and a property-tax free, says the report.
As such, seven women have been waiting as much as one year to receive award money owed to them under the state’s Line of Duty Compensation Act, which provides one-time payments and burial reimbursements to the families of fallen first responders.
The pending allotments are part of a $45 million pile of unpaid awards through the Illinois Court of Claims, a body that adjudicates litigation directed at the state and approves line-of-duty awards. That overall amount also includes unpaid awards owed to a group of exonerated, wrongfully imprisoned ex-inmates and others who sustained injuries on state roads or in state facilities.
The delayed award payments are causing many of the women distress, including police widow Susan Maness who has been waiting for her award since January 2016. She told reporters she is at risk of defaulting on her “dream home” that she and her late husband, Dwight Maness, 47, purchased because they relied on both incomes to afford the mortgage. She has struggled to make the payments since he was shot in the leg in 2014 during a police call and later died from complications in 2015.
Several other widows lost husbands due to crashes and fatal injuries or cardiac arrests that occurred on the job.
When asked about the political climate in Illinois, Maness said, “Everybody is pointing the finger at the other person, and no one wants to take responsibility. But while they’re fighting and pointing fingers, the rest of us are sitting here worried about our future and our homes and how things are going to continue.”
“I think it’s unconscionable,” said Pat Devaney, president of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois. “From my perspective, I’d say this is the result of Governor (Bruce) Rauner’s failure to propose and work with the General Assembly to pass a balanced budget that funds important things like this.”
Democratic State Representative Fred Crespo said Illinois’ inability to give the widows what they are owed is like “adding insult to injury” and also blames the governor for not making this effort a higher budgetary priority.
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