As I said in yesterday's message (included below), the Legislature and the Governor were able to reach agreement on the rebalance of the state's budget. Today I want to talk about where we stand with regard to the staffing and management issues that were a large focus of the legislative process.
First, DHS will continue a hiring freeze, using our "smart freeze" process that we formalized just before the statewide hard freeze was implemented. From a technical perspective, the statewide hard freeze process, led by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), is over. But what is also true is that DHS -- and most state agencies, in fact -- must achieve significant savings in our personnel budgets in order to achieve the balanced budget approved by the Legislature this week. Though I anticipate that there will be some exceptions granted using our "smart freeze" criteria, we will continue to be challenged with the currently budgeted staffing levels. Currently, we are holding about 450 positions vacant, and I know each and every one of you feels the impact of those vacancies as you do your daily work.
Second, we are in the process of analyzing the impact of two legislative actions that relate to our management positions: a new budget target and a new legal standard.
New Budget Target
-- As I've explained in earlier messages, the budget included reduction targets for management positions for most large agencies, including DHS. Our budget reduction target is $6 million. The direction is for agencies to work with DAS to develop a proposal to go to the Legislature in May 2012, with specific details about how the budget targets for reducing management positions will be met.
New Legal Standard
-- In addition to the budget target focusing specifically on management positions, the Legislature also passed HB 4131. That legislation directs state agencies with 100 or more employees to reach an 11:1 ratio of staff to supervisors and directs those agencies that have not reached the 11:1 ratio to increase their ratio of non-supervisory employees to supervisory employees by at least one employee by no later than October 31, 2012. Under the HB 4131 definition, the DHS staff to supervisor ratio (department-wide) is currently 9:1, so we are one of those agencies that is going to need to develop a more detailed plan to move ourselves from where we are currently up to 10:1 ratio by October of this year. We are doing the analysis now that will become the basis of that plan. Requests for approval to fill vacant management positions will go through our smart freeze process, but exceptions to fill management positions will only be granted as part of what will be our larger plan focusing on the new law and our new budget targets.
I know this information will generate lots of questions, particularly with regard to our management and supervisory positions. I am asking for your continued patience as we work through the data to create our plan for next steps. I can assure you that we are working very hard to create a plan that will address the requirements of the bill, as well as address our most critical needs as an organization and preserve the important role supervisors and managers play in DHS offices across the state.
As always, my commitment is to communicate with you as much as possible about how we are moving forward. And we are
moving forward. The work we are doing to continuously improve our processes and to innovate in our various practice and service-delivery areas is now of even greater urgency. I need all of your best thinking about how we can increase the pace of change around those efforts, and how we can continue to support one another in the process.
Thank you for holding fast to our individual and joint commitment to providing the best service possible to Oregonians - even under difficult circumstances.
March 6, 2012: Hiring & Staffing Update re: 2012 Balanced Budget
The Oregon Legislature has just completed its session, the first one under the new annual
session law. Our legislators and the Governor were able to reach agreement on the task of rebalancing the state's budget, but they also made progress on several areas that will impact DHS. I appreciate the continued commitment of the Governor and Legislature to our clients, their families and communities across the state. While it is true that DHS will take additional budget reductions in some areas of Self Sufficiency and Developmental Disabilities, other cuts that had been proposed earlier were restored in the final budget that passed yesterday. There are many details in the budget, so I wanted to highlight a few of the most important elements:
- In the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, basic cash assistance payment levels and income eligibility criteria are unchanged. Current TANF Parents as Scholars clients can complete their education without losing cash assistance. The TANF Family Support and Connections program is maintained at full funding. Families who meet the federal 60-month time limit out of state will not be eligible for TANF in Oregon. The current "job quit" ineligibility period is extended from 60 to 120 days. Post-TANF payments to working families are ended May 1, 2012, two months earlier than originally budgeted. $9 million in unallocated JOBS funding is maintained for job placement, contracted slots and client support services such as child care and transportation.
- Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) caseloads are funded at an expected 8,500 average cases, and client co-payments are increased by 10%, an average of $5 to $10 monthly for families receiving subsidies on May 1, 2012.
- Child Welfare services are maintained, including funding for SB 964 (2011) community-based, family preservation and reunification programs. The unallocated $5 million special purpose appropriation in the Emergency Board for child welfare differential response is eliminated. The new initiative to contract for domestic violence advocates in program offices is scaled back, and $1 million for new infrastructure grants to domestic violence shelters is eliminated. Foster care, adoptions assistance and other child welfare provider reimbursement payments are unchanged.
- Funding for Refugee Services is decreased by $100,000 overall.
- Vocational Rehabilitation Services are continued without reduction.
- The shortfall in long-term care costs for seniors and adults with physical disabilities in in-home services, community-based facilities, and nursing facilities has been adjusted, and Co-Chairs' intent is that the Governor's Office, Oregon Health Authority and DHS will pursue additional federal Medicaid funding or other federal revenue to mitigate or eliminate the full reduction. DHS is expected to report on this issue to the Emergency Board at its May 2012 meeting, with recommendations regarding any further action to be taken at that time.
- There are no reductions in Oregon Project Independence services, Medicaid adult day services, or Medicaid home-delivered meals programs.
- Alternatives to Employment Services, Sheltered Employment, Supported Employment, the Family Support Program and Family-to-Family network for people with developmental disabilities and their families also continue without reductions. The plan avoids further reductions to reimbursement rates for brokerages and community developmental disability programs (CDDPs). A total of $7 million General Fund is added to restore some of the rate reductions scheduled as part of the legislatively adopted budget for employment and Alternatives to Employment providers, for 24-hour residential providers, for supported living providers and for children's residential providers.
On a different front, the 2012 Legislative session delivered some significant bills that will have ongoing impact for DHS (see below):
- Health Care (HB 4164, SB 1580) - The Legislature approved the guidelines for creating Oregon's coordinated care organizations (CCOs), one of the Governor's key initiatives, to bring together hospitals, clinics and other providers to better coordinate the care of those on the Oregon Health Plan. The legislature also approved the continuation of the important work of building the Health Insurance Exchange, where individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance coverage.
- Elder Abuse (HB 4084) - There is a new ability for law enforcement to protect vulnerable seniors from financial and physical abuse, modeled after legislation protecting children from abuse. This action also addresses some of the issues under current law to intervene with seniors and seek financial and medical records that could provide evidence of potential abuse.
- Early Learning (HB 4165) - 2012 will be remembered for some big changes in early childhood programs in Oregon. The new law consolidates early-childhood programs under the Early Learning Council to make them better coordinated, easier for the neediest families to access and more focused on preparing youngsters for kindergarten. The idea is that preventing educational problems, especially in reading, will be cheaper and more effective than waiting until kindergarten.
To those of you who put in long hours during the Legislative session, I thank you for your work. To everyone at DHS, it is your dedication and commitment to our clients and our mission that has helped us manage through these extraordinary times - and we can continue to manage through the challenges before us. As always, I invite you to share your thoughts and questions with me as we move forward to continue to serve our clients and our communities.
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