|Last week I talked about the difficult times we are facing in the current economy for our clients, for us personally and for our organization. I want to continue that discussion today, to keep you involved in what this means for us and those we serve.
Just as our personal living expenses are rising, costs also are going up for the department. More people are turning to us for food stamps, health care and other assistance. Unfortunately, the most recent economic news offers little encouragement. Unemployment is rising and state revenue projections indicate that additional resources are unlikely to be available. Without implementing any belt-tightening measures, we will overshoot this biennium's budget by nearly $72 million.
As most of you are aware, we began to take actions several months ago in anticipation of this situation. However, the continued economic downturn now requires us to do more. We are consulting with the Legislature on plans to address this situation, to get through this biennium and plan for the next. We will be cutting back on travel, professional services, and services and supplies. We also are considering instituting a hiring freeze for positions that do not directly impact client and patient safety.
I fully realize the impact of implementing a hiring freeze just as caseloads are going up. Such a step will have effects on our ability to deliver services, and will add to the personal stress of doing our jobs. The DHS Cabinet members have carefully thought through how to best approach this so that we do our best to minimize untoward consequences, and we are setting priorities to do our best to continue to meet the growing caseload demands.
We have been down this road before, and we all know how difficult it can be. Much has been asked of you in our difficult times and you have demonstrated your responsibility by stepping up to do what you can to help. Unfortunately, there simply is no easy solution to this budget dilemma that does not require these kinds of cost-cutting measures.
We all need to work together to figure out the best way to deal with this. We need to continue our efforts to improve efficiencies and take a hard look at activities that add little value. If nothing else, this situation can help serve as an impetus for us to continue our focus on becoming a leaner, more efficient organization.
This agency has weathered these economic storms before. Every day we work hard in our jobs to help our clients, and the work we do makes a positive difference.
Once we receive direction from the Legislative Emergency Board next week and finalize plans for implementing cost-saving measures, you will get more details about the specific steps we will be taking.
In the meantime, please know that you are doing good work, and that you are very much appreciated - by the people you serve and by me.