|This week we released client need figures for April showing that we are now entering our second year of record growth in food stamp, TANF cash assistance, and Oregon Health Plan demand. Currently one in six Oregonians count on food stamps to help keep food on the tables for their family. The increased need we are seeing in our state is a sad reflection on our circumstances and values. A private business with this kind of expansion, market penetration and customer loyalty would be cheered by stockholders and investing in continued growth.
Sadly, we are making reductions. This week the Ways and Means co-chairs' budget was released showing how declining employment reduces the dollars available to pay for these and other basic services. You can see the details of the co-chairs' budget here.
During the rollout of the plan Monday afternoon, I was pleased to hear a strong statement from Sen. Margaret Carter, the co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee. "I have told you from the beginning and I am telling you now, we will not balance our budget on the backs of Oregon's most vulnerable citizens."
In this budget, all sectors of government services took reductions. No one was spared -- from education to public safety to Veterans Affairs.
The co-chairs' budget is a "draft" so to speak. The Legislature will now work over the next few weeks to finalize the next biennium's budget.
The co-chairs' budget reductions present an 11 percent cut overall for our agency. As you know, almost 85 percent of our budget pays for client services through businesses and providers living in Oregon communities. As such, reductions will mean service cuts that will be painful for many of our clients and decrease our ability to meet the increasing needs you see every day.
At the same time, I also see in the budget an acknowledgement that during this time of economic crisis, the need for DHS services is greater than ever. The third big news of the week was the release of statewide jobs figures that show 12 percent unemployment, indicating that demand for our services is not going to end any time soon.
And over the past year I have heard from lawmakers and members of the public that they know you are working hard to help Oregonians through this economic crisis and they know how important that is.
Finally, as you head out for the weekend, its important that we all recognize that Monday is Memorial Day. Every day Oregon men and women put their lives on the line in faraway lands and too often they make the ultimate sacrifice. Since last Memorial Day eight service people with ties to Oregon were lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. As this conflict goes on, many of us unfortunately take as routine the stories of those in harm's way and the names of the dead and injured. And that is why Memorial Day is so important -- it reminds us to stop and remember these service people. To think about their children... their wives and husbands... their parents... and their friends and communities. And to live in that loss for even just a moment.
To learn more about Oregon's servicemen and women, click here.