Vermilion County Health Department is preparing for the worst in light of the state’s continuing budget nightmare.

As of Friday, no budget for the state of Illinois’ upcoming fiscal year — which begins July 1 — was sitting on the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn. He called a special session to get lawmakers back to work to avoid $9.2 billion in spending cuts.

“They’re at a political impasse, a stalemate, whatever you want call it,” said Steve Laker, head of the county’s health department.

With Springfield in a deadlock over the new state budget, offices like the Vermilion County Health Department are feeling the crunch as they wait for various funding and payments from the state. The department relies on almost 80 percent of its budget to come from state grants, fees for service and Medicaid.

Laker said a $300,000 loan given by the county to the health department in early April to deal with the expected state money shortfalls has already been spent. He cited a three-paycheck month in May as part of the reason for the quick expenditure.

Currently, the state owes the health department $700,000.

The line of credit, used sparingly by the health department before 2008, became an important asset last year as late state funding caused a money gap for health department officials then. Unlike this year thus far, the state made up for all its monetary shortfalls with the health department.

To deal with the current problems, Laker said he asked for early distribution of taxes, giving the department another $239,000 to work with and increasing the health department’s debt to the county to more than $500,000.

The money will see the programs through this month and July, but remaining — or continuing — failures by the state to pay up will force Laker to ask the county for another $300,000 loan.

Vermilion County Board Chairman Jim McMahon said the health department will be asked to put together a plan to deal with the situation if it is forced to ask for more money from the county.

“I do feel if the state is not going to pay their bills, there has to be some adjustments in the health department,” McMahon said. “There are only certain programs the county can afford.”

McMahon added that the county would look over the plan prior to approving another loan for the health department.

“The county is a partnership and we’re going to support the health department to the best of our ability, but we’re not going to go broke over the health department,” McMahon said.

Not all programs could be subject to problems as a result of the missing state money. Laker pointed out that the health department’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and family planning programs are two examples of federally funded services.

But others, including communicable disease prevention, are state-funded. Communicable disease would include the county health department’s proactive work for a reoccurrence of the H1N1 virus, also know as swine flu, during the fall months.

Laker considered it ironic that a program receiving such a push just weeks ago could fall apart before it’s ever instituted.

“It will be interesting to see if anyone is left to respond,” he said.

In April, the county talked about its options if state money continued to be held up for a long period of time. Those options included taking the state to the Court of Claims to fight for payment.

McMahon said that is still an option and will be considered if the county feels it is not being treated fairly.

“We would use that resource before we go to the taxpayers,” he said.

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