OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature has approved a measure to immediately provide $34 million in funding to the Department of Human Services to prevent worker furloughs and provider rate cuts.
The bills approved Monday by House and Senate committees would tap about $30 million from the state’s Unclaimed Property Fund and another $4 million from the Rainy Day Fund. The money would be used to fund programs for the elderly and developmentally disabled.
Amid budget shortfalls in recent years, Oklahoma lawmakers have increasingly looked at one-time funding sources, like the Unclaimed Property Fund and Rainy Day Fund, to help fill the gaps.
The panels also approved separate measures for emergency funding for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System and the state court system.
The bills now head to the full House and Senate.
Oklahoma’s DHS Director Ed Lake warned lawmakers before the session that without the immediate infusion of funding, his agency would be forced to furlough workers or cut provider rates.
Last week, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services released a letter about the ongoing budget crisis after lawmakers asked state agencies to prepare a plan if 15 percent of their budget was cut.
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services says the “reduction scenarios at almost every level depicted can be accurately described as ranging from the terrible to the unthinkable.”
Officials say those kinds of cuts would cause “reductions to or elimination of entire programs providing critical health and safety services for vulnerable seniors, people with disabilities, and children.”
“Our circumstances are, in fact, dire, and these fiscal issues must be addressed to prevent the dismantling of critical services,” the letter read. “Please know that even developing a list of these options was unconscionable for us as leaders and we all hope the Legislature will find solutions to the budget shortfall and prevent at least some of these catastrophic cuts.”