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OKDHS faces $150M shortfall, employee and service reductions eyed

(Source Oklahoma Department of Human Services) (Source Oklahoma Department of Human Services)

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KSWO) – The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is facing a $150 million shortfall going into fiscal year 2017, and layoffs and reduced services are possible.

DHS Director Ed Lake told employees and contractors about the budget problems Friday and warned that additional budget cuts would only make the problem worse given the multi-million dollar reduction to the current fiscal year’s budget.

“Our fiscal circumstances are so serious that we must examine the potential for reductions in every administrative, service, benefits and program area in this agency,” Lake said. “This news cannot be sugar-coated, the results will be painful, barring what would be some kind of fiscal miracle.”

OKDHS is preparing for huge cuts that could include reducing services to keep the elderly out of nursing homes and services that help people with developmental disabilities. A new fee structure is being considered for child care licensing and child support services. OKDHS says subsidies for low-income families needing help with child car will be limited. Contracts with outside vendors will be reduced, phased out or eliminated completely.

“Dire financial circumstances are forcing us to make significant cuts now while we plan with utmost seriousness for implementing potentially disastrous actions that will most assuredly compromise our ability to carry out the core services of DHS primary ‘safety net’ services,” Lake said.

Given that the largest portion of the internal administrative budget goes to personnel-related costs, OKDHS is planning for significant reductions in the number of employees they have. During the last two fiscal years, OKDHS says they cut 1,200 non-child welfare positions and they’re looking at the possibilities of cutting several hundred more.

OKDHS says they are evaluating the possibility of consolidating county offices around the state, but no decisions have been made as to which offices will be affected.

Assistance programs like SNAP and TANF are federally funded and they will not be affected, however, OKDHS must ensure there are enough employees to process the applications and meet federal requirements. If those requirements are not met, they could be hit with penalties for not meeting quality or timeliness standards.

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