|More and more people - clients and co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family - are feeling the pinch of the tight economy. And, as most of you know, DHS is in a "countercyclical" business. Unfortunately, when economic times are bad, community needs and our caseloads go up just as the revenues needed to fund our services go down. And right now people are struggling.
As the costs of food and fuel rise, as mortgage woes continue and unemployment grows, more people are turning to DHS for assistance. We're seeing an increased need for help in communities throughout Oregon each and every day. More people are seeking food benefits and emergency cash assistance, and more people are applying for help with health care costs and other supports.
This growing level of need is putting pressure on Oregon families, our staff and our budget.
TANF caseloads are up 14.7 percent over last fall's forecast, food stamp caseloads are up 8.1 percent, and Oregon Health Plan enrollment is up 3.9 percent. The long, shallow revenue decline predicted in last week's state revenue forecast means the state's ability to add resources to help DHS may be limited.
For the past several months as the nation's economy began to weaken, the DHS Cabinet has been preparing for this situation. We are working on plans to manage this situation, and will discuss options later this month with the legislative Emergency Board.
As more details become available, I'll continue to keep you informed in upcoming messages and you'll also receive information from your division administrators. In short, if we are going to respond to Oregonians' growing need for assistance, all of us must be smart and creative, compassionate and considerate. We must do the best we can to care for our clients and ourselves.
It's always unfortunate to find ourselves in a situation where requests for help are up and the revenues and resources necessary to do our jobs are down. I recognize the stress and strain this puts on all of us and will work to the best of my ability to minimize it.
I know that everyone in this agency is committed to minimizing the harm this kind of economic situation can create for those who need health and social services and those who provide them. Our job is to help vulnerable Oregonians. And that's what must remain our focus as we address the workload and budget issues in the months ahead. This is a time for all of us to work together and do the best we can.
Thank you for all that you do.