Last week at DHS we began a very difficult task -- notifying clients and providers that services that had been paid for by the state are being cut. For those of us in the health and human services field, breaking this news to people is frankly one of the hardest parts of our job. But it is also the time when the compassion and empathy that drove us to human services is most needed.
Also under way is the necessary workforce reduction to meet a 9 percent budget cut. As I've said in weeks past, the workforce reduction is serious -- about 5 percent -- and I know that it will have an effect on how we are able to do all that is expected of us every day. We have worked very hard to keep the number of layoffs low and do nearly all of the reduction through attrition and holding positions open. There will be more information next week about the number of layoffs and where they will occur.
Here is something that I think it's important to remember: We cannot make these budget cuts go away but we can implement them in the best way possible and we can make sure that all of our communications with employees, clients and providers reflect our humanity, not our bureaucracy. So to that end, I want to continue answering some of the recent questions I've received about the budget shortfalls.
Will there be federal money to fill the budget hole?
I don't believe there will be any very soon. Recent news from Washington, D.C., is that there will not be an extension of federal stimulus dollars at this time. If it does come later in the year, I believe the amount will be less than we had originally hoped.
Why can't you wait to make the budget cuts until you know for sure?
If we were to wait until fall or winter to reduce services, there would be less time to make up the $158 million shortfall, which would mean deeper and more drastic cuts to services for seniors, people with disabilities, and others. It would be irresponsible to gamble that way with people's lives.
Why are some services being reduced while others aren't?
The statewide budget shortfall is due to a deep drop in Oregon revenue -- the taxes Oregonians pay. It is caused by the global recession but the effect is felt here at home. Much of the DHS budget is federal dollars and we are limited under the law about how those dollars are used. We also fund programs and services through other non-General fund means such as tobacco tax, Lottery funds, the provider tax and other sources - all of which have their own requirements as to how the dollars can be used. To make the $158 million state General Fund cut, we had to reduce those services that are paid for entirely or partly by state dollars.
Why aren't we first reducing administration and overhead?
We are. We have reduced our workforce and in every division of DHS and will continue to do so. We are looking at all expenditures and eliminating everything that isn't vital to providing our core services.
I will continue sharing the information I have with you and answer your questions. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for the work you do every day for our clients, our customers and our state.