|Yesterday at the Capitol many did a double take when a group of people walked through the building wearing hard hats and carrying shovels, especially since none of them were construction workers.
Health Services Coalition of Oregon press conference at the Capitol January 29.
They were representatives of the Human Services Coalition of Oregon, a group of stakeholders and advocates who lobby on behalf of the clients we serve. They were in Salem yesterday to tell the story of how the Federal Stimulus Package could be an important boost to Oregon's economy not just in infrastructure projects like roads and bridges but by leveraging state dollars through the Department of Human Services and supporting jobs and commerce in every corner of Oregon. I agree.
The work we do at DHS to help improve people's lives is well known. However, one of the least known facts about DHS is that we are also an important economic engine for Oregon. Look at some facts:
- 82 percent of our $11.5 billion budget last year from the state, federal government and other funds is spent directly in Oregon communities. Each day we write an average of $13 million worth of checks that go to pay local hospitals, nursing homes, home health care workers, foster parents, doctors, mental health specialists and more.
- State investments in DHS facilitate the flow of approximately $7 billion of federal investment into Oregon's economy;
- Every $1 million of state funds invested into a federal matching program such as the Oregon Health Plan or long-term care results in economic activity of, on average, $2.7 million.
- DHS provides child care assistance to low-income families, which helps pay the salaries of 13,800 child care providers every year.
- An average food stamps subsidy of $181 not only helps feed Oregon families but it also generates $333 of economic activity so that grocery stores can employ cashiers and other staff.
- DHS dollars support some 55,000 jobs in health care.
In other words, human services provides one-third of the economic activity of the only sector that gained jobs last month - health care.
Here's an example of how that works. We contract with Shangri La Corp., which provides job training and residential care for people who are developmentally disabled and mentally ill. As a result, Shangri La employs 450 people in eight - soon to be nine - counties in Oregon and generates an annual payroll of $8.125 million dollars.
As CEO Jan Kral said at a news conference yesterday, "Our employees, vendors and contractors count on us as much as our clients do."
It's not certain what the total Federal Stimulus Package will ultimately look like. But it appears that through an increased Federal Medicaid Assistance Match Oregon could receive approximately $800 million over the next nine quarters. That will not solve our state budget problems, but it will help.
The reality is that federal investments in DHS today will help support not the only the great work each of you do every day, but it will also provide needed support to workers and employers throughout Oregon. As the need for our services continues to rise, this will become increasingly important not just to families but to entire communities who will count on us to provide both needed human services and basic economic stability until things get back on track.
So I agree, DHS is "shovel-ready." Just give us the tools and we'll get to work.