CEDA money troubles could lead to cuts in Cook County services - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

CEDA money troubles could lead to cuts in Cook County services

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - One of Cook County's largest social service agencies, which provides critical services to a half million people, is in serious financial trouble.

FOX 32 has obtained a letter outlining the desperate money troubles at the agency, which administers the head start program in the suburbs and employs hundreds of people.

The Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, or CEDA for short, serves as a safety net for a half million Cook County residents. It receives state and federal grants totaling $190-million to provide head start pre-school services, weatherization and low-income heating.

However, one former board member warns CEDA could be going under.

Jordan Matyas, who is chief of staff at the RTA and son-in-law of powerful House Speaker Mike Madigan, resigned from CEDA’s board last month after just two meetings.

In his resignation letter, obtained by FOX 32 News, Matyas alleged that CEDA’s own lawyers have advised it should consider filing bankruptcy. It also alleged that CEDA is facing eviction from its headquarters in the financial district, that CEDA may lose its federal grant to provide head start services in suburban Cook County, and that CEDA is awaiting the results of a federal investigation into allegations of fraud by some of its former employees.

Matyas writes, "CEDA’s inaction over the past two years to reform the agency has put the jobs of 500 people at risk and is jeopardizing the critical services provided to Cook County residents."

CEDA responded that it recently filed a lawsuit against its former auditors, alleging they failed to inform the board about its true financial condition.

A spokesman said CEDA is currently $5.5-million in debt and looking for new headquarters.

However, the spokesman also said the 35 year old agency is taking aggressive steps to save itself.

"CEDA is acting boldly to protect the financial resources of the organization and serve its core population," the spokesman said.

The agency is currently being run by an acting chief operating officer and chief financial officer, each whom are making $5,000 a week -- until fulltime leadership is hired.

A spokesman for the state said they are aware of the problems and hopeful they'll be resolved, but are taking steps to find other agencies to administer the programs just in case.

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