With seven mouths to feed, including a young son with special needs, a lottery windfall for Lance and Helen Whitfield was a saving grace.
The Bourbonnais couple played Illinois Lottery's Lucky Day Lotto for 30 years hoping for their ‘lucky day’ and on July 20 it finally came in the form of a $400,000 winning ticket.
“For two days he couldn’t sit down,” Helen Whitfield said of her husband’s reaction to the prize win.
Lance Whitfield knew what a blessing the money would be to his family.
“It was a godsend,” he said.
The couple adopted four of their seven children, including their youngest son Dalton who has Down syndrome.
“I’m 74, she’s 73 and [Dalton] is going to need care for probably a long time,” Whitfield said. “Every winter he goes to school, he comes back and he goes to the hospital for five days at a time.”
The family soon after sealed plans to move to the warmer state of Florida with several of their children. But what was initially excitement soon turned to frustration when they realized their payment wasn’t coming, and they won’t be seeing a check until Illinois gets a state budget.
Meanwhile across the state lottery tickets are still being sold.
“They’ve taken the money in so they should be able to pay it out,” Helen Whitfield attested.
Illinois Lottery’s spokesman Stephen Rossi pointed to the problems in Springfield for the delayed payments to winners.
"All winners will be paid in full as soon as the Lottery and the Illinois Comptroller have the legislative authority to do so,” Rossi said in a Friday statement. “Currently, winners may claim prizes under $600 at any of our 8,000 retail locations, and prizes under $25,000 may be claimed at any Lottery claims center, found at illinoislottery.com.”
State law mandates the Illinois comptroller's office must make payouts larger than $25,000, but they also say their hands are tied.
“Without a budget, we can’t, by law, make any payments on an appropriated fund without a court order or consent decree or statutory continuing appropriation,” said Rich Carter, press secretary for Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger’s office.
For now, the Whitfields’ boxes destined for Florida stay put in their far south suburban home.
They just hope their family doesn’t have to wait much longer.
“Get it fixed and pay out,” urged Leslie Whitfield. “We’re not going to be able to enjoy it as old as we are if we don’t get it.”