Missouri slow to pay counties for housing prisoners
JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — Many Missouri counties won’t be reimbursed for state prisoners housed in their jails until 2018.
The Legislature set aside about $40 million for the reimbursement program this year, The Joplin Globe reported . But the state ran out of the allocated money catching up with back payments before the end of the fiscal quarter, said Karen Pojmann, a state Department of Corrections spokeswoman.
County officials have complained for years about delays in reimbursement, saying the continuing delays make it more difficult to meet their financial obligations.
“The state should pay us what they owe us, and the Legislature needs to take care of that,” said Richard Webster, the Jasper County auditor. “It’s that simple.”
The state owes Jasper County $224,000, according to state figures released in September.
Counties already pay a majority of prisoner housing costs. The County Commissioners Association of Missouri says housing an inmate costs about $45 a day. The state paid less than $21 a day last year.
“The current funding levels and reimbursement schedule combined with a pre-existing backlog of approved invoices has resulted in a delay of paying newly approved invoices,” said Susan Pulliam, the Department of Corrections chief financial officer.
Requests are processed on a first-come, first-served basis. An audit of the reimbursement process which began last year found that faulty, duplicate and late requests have slowed the process, Pojmann said.
A state task force will meet next month to review the reimbursement process, she said.
“To dedicate an entire meeting to that topic demonstrates how important it is,” Pojmann said.
Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com