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Without paychecks, how will state workers manage?

A Cook County judge's decision earlier this week could put state employees in a world of financial hurt. Until the Illinois Legislature and Gov. Bruce Rauner agree on a 2016 budget, about 65,000 state workers could go without pay. While the judge's ruling ordered that workers covered by a Federal labor law should be paid -- at the minimum wage -- state officials say it could take months to determine which employees would be eligible.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that Rauner will work with Legislature leadership to pass a separate appropriation to cover salaries, but the timeline is uncertain. And, of course, there is no guarantee they can reach an agreement on this matter, either.

The question is, how will those 65,000 workers and their families fare while lawmakers try to settle their differences?

The pay suspension does not affect rent or mortgage payments. These 65,000 families will still have to pay for food and gas and all of the little things that add up to "making ends meet." A couple of phone calls can put credit card companies and even student loan payments off for a month, but they don't go away for good. Legislators must be hoping that state employees have sizeable savings accounts.

Without savings, some workers may be tempted to sign up for short-term (payday) loans. We urge anyone considering a payday loan to keep in mind that these loans lead to a slippery slope of ever-increasing debt. There are other options available.

If the budget impasse continues, and the governor is unsuccessful in passing a separate salary appropriation, state workers may consider consulting with debt relief agencies. Debt relief professionals can help individuals and families determine an appropriate and manageable plan for making it through an extended cash shortage.

Source:  Chicago Sun-Times, "Judge: No budget, only minimum wage -- and only for some," Stefano Esposito, July 7, 2015

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