|The last two weeks brought a barrage of events that have left many people reeling. I know from the e-mails I have received and the conversations I have had with many of you that the uncertainty of the economy, increased demand for human services, and coming pay cuts and furloughs are leaving us all wondering "what's next?"
This week the Oregon legislature passed a bill to fill the $855 million shortfall in the 2007-2009 budget that took into account the increasing demand for services, the $115 million in reductions DHS has already taken this budget cycle and the federal stimulus money.
That said, there were reductions to supports for working Oregon families trying to get back on their feet and other vulnerable populations.
For example, self-employed TANF clients will no longer receive employment related day care, and monthly assistance for 1,676 families who receive child care through family members will be reduced. Also, support and employment services for adults with developmental disabilities who leave school at age 21 will be delayed. See a full list of the other cuts (PDF).
Now we have to prepare for the hard choices coming in the 2009-2011 budget. And because there is so much uncertainty, I cannot give you a lot of answers today about what a statewide $3 billion shortfall is going to mean for our clients and employees. But the one certainty I can give is that I will keep communicating with you, sharing information, and listening to your concerns. Of course, you can always email me. We have also set up a website http://www.dhs.state.or.us/admin/hr/reductions/index.html that will be the center for information and news updates. Please take a look at it and let me know what kind of other information would be most helpful to you.
And again, I want to thank all of you who have contacted me expressing your thoughts and counsel as our organization braces for more difficult times ahead. As I read your notes, two very strong themes emerge: people are worried -- for your families for and our clients -- and you also want to know how you can help.
DHS is a great agency both because of you, our dedicated workforce, and because of our important mission. You work very hard and taking furloughs or pay reductions at this time will be difficult. It will be a financial challenge for families. Given our increasing workloads and need in many of our facilities to provide 24/7 staffing, it will be a workplace challenge as well.
As I said in my message last week, we are all in this together. No matter what the ultimate outcome is of the contract negotiations for represented workers, managers and executive staff will be right there with them.
This week, managers and executive staff begin identifying which days to take as furloughs between now and the end of June or whether to take a pay cut without furlough. I want to tell you how much I appreciate the flexibility and compassion of all DHS employees in all divisions who are working together as we deal with these stormy times.