This is the time during each biennium when we find ourselves working with two separate budgets -- the current biennium's budget and the upcoming 2009-2011 budget. Today I want to update you on the status of both budgets.
Jim Scherzinger, deputy director for finance, testifies to the E-Board as Julie Strauss of DHS Federal Financial Policy office listens.
First, this biennium's budget. Yesterday we made a presentation to the Emergency Board to report on our current budget. Halfway through the biennium, the positive news is that we are right on track and are doing a good job of delivering services while carefully monitoring expenditures and living within our budget. The somewhat concerning news is that our budget is very, very tight. Although we are doing a good job of managing our current budget, we also are being increasingly affected by a variety of external economic factors outside our control.
As you know, difficult economic times result in more people relying on us for help. Higher gas and food prices are making life much harder for people with limited resources. More than 475,000 Oregonians received food stamp benefits last month, up more than 7 percent from a year ago. The coastal salmon fishery closure and the loss of federal timber payments also are causing hardships. Requests for food benefits, emergency cash assistance, the Oregon Health Plan and other supports are increasing. As caseloads rise, so do the related costs of providing services. We're also keeping an eye on possible federal policy changes that could affect revenue streams.
I am confident we will be able to continue to deliver high-quality services, but we all need to be very mindful that we have no cushion in this biennium's budget to absorb unplanned expenses. We need to be even more diligent than usual in watching expenditures and look for every opportunity to work within our budget.
SPD's Janette Williams and Bob Nikkel, DHS assistant director for Addictions and Mental Health Division, listen as and Maryclaire Buckley of the Psychiatric Security Review Board addresses the E-Board.
At the same time, we are developing our next biennium's budget. To help build the proposed 2009-2011 budget we held a series of community forums to gather input, received comments via e-mail and mail, and spoke with many state leaders and representatives of advocacy groups. These comments and concerns have been instrumental in helping us develop a series of policy option packages (POPs), which are proposed additions to our current base budget. A draft of our POPs will be posted June 30 on the DHS Web site for comment. You'll be able to find them by going to www.oregon.gov/DHS and clicking on the "Budget" link on the left-side navigation bar, or going directly to http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/aboutdhs/budget/09-11budget/index.shtml.
These POPs represent the foundation of what we are calling a needs-based budget and demonstrate what is required to provide a more complete range of the health and human services Oregonians need and deserve.
I believe the need for these services is too important to go unrecognized. That's why the proposed 2009-2011 DHS budget better acknowledges and addresses the level of services Oregonians need. And, as we proceed through the budget development process, I hope this list of POPs will generate a statewide conversation about how to best meet this state's health and human service needs.
I encourage you to participate in that discussion by reviewing these POPs and providing your comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Our neighbors deserve our attention.