By Dave Dahl
SPRINGFIELD – In what Republicans surely see as an election-year gift, the Illinois auditor general is blasting the Pritzker administration’s response to the covid-19 crisis at a state veterans’ home as way too slow.
Gov. JB Pritzker saw the report overshadow some good news he wanted to share about a pension buyout bill he signed into law. And it sure sounds as if he does not agree with the auditor general’s findings …
“Every agency of our government was in the midst of the worst time in this health crisis – this global, deadly pandemic,” said Pritzker, reading from prepared remarks Thursday. “Every one of them was working extraordinarily long hours and focused on keeping people alive. They did everything that they could. People died anyway, but far fewer people because of the work that’s been done by the agencies, and particularly by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.”
Three dozen people died at the veterans’ home in La Salle, as the auditor general said Public Health didn’t offer enough help. And Pritzker’s veterans’ affairs director, former State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, found herself eventually out of a job.
House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) issued a statement via e-mail:
“The Auditor General’s report today shows again that when it comes to protecting our state’s most vulnerable, like children in DCFS or Veterans in the care of IDVA, Governor Pritzker is a failure. Our heroes deserved better than Pritzker’s fatal mismanagement at the LaSalle Veterans’ Home.”
Pritzker is the second consecutive governor with a veterans’ problem on his hands. Under then-Gov. Bruce Rauner, Legionnaires’ disease killed a dozen residents, and reports afterward said his administration tried to deflect blame.
Dave Dahl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org