Department of Human Services announces $45 million in cuts

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Just two months into the new fiscal year, a local state agency announced that it is already making cuts after they say lawmakers didn’t pass revenue generating legislation last fiscal year.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Service is facing a more than $100 million shortfall for this current fiscal year, which began July 1.

On Wednesday, the agency announced that officials are already making $45 million in cuts.

“We have been upfront with legislative leaders all year long about the DHS budget, our increasing costs, and the limitations we face when trying to make reductions,” said DHS Director Ed Lake. “It is fiscally impossible to reduce $100 million out of our budget without putting thousands of vulnerable Oklahomans at risk.”

Officials say that DHS expected legislators to come up with supplemental funding in exchange for the agency not cutting Medicaid programs that serve older Oklahomans and the disabled.

“These additional DHS reductions fall squarely on the shoulders of state leaders who would not consider significant measures to raise revenue. DHS had no option but to make these cuts that will hurt their ability to provide safety net services like day care assistance, adult protective services and  help for the elderly,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “Also, Gov. Fallin, by delaying the distribution of $140 million back to state agencies is making the problem even worse. Those funds should have already been returned to state agencies like DHS to minimize reductions and continue operations.”

Now, agency leaders say they may not be able to make payroll or pay contractors by the spring of 2017.

DHS plans to file an involuntary Reduction in Force, which will cut an additional 91 positions.

“Not only is this a continuing crisis for at-risk families, Oklahoma may be risking the loss of federal funds because the state does not meet performance standards. This is not DHS’ fault. It is the legislature and governor’s fault for not funding core services. I’m afraid we will see future cuts in other agencies too,“ Zearley said.

Currently, DHS spends $755 million a year, but the agency was only allotted $652 million for this fiscal year.

“If we don’t get serious about raising revenue, we won’t have any services left for our citizens,” Zearley said. “I hope voters realize this and vote for candidates support raising revenue to fund vital core services.”
“When our citizens get frustrated with delays in obtaining state services, they need to call their legislators and the governor to vent to them,” he added. “That’s where the blame lies when Oklahomans can’t get the help they need.”
 
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