Oregon Legislature Invests in DHS in 2018 Session
DHS Director's Message
Message from DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht
March 5, 2018
Our state legislature closed its 2018 session on Saturday, a week earlier than scheduled. Known as the “short session,” legislators spent nearly a month in Salem and focused mostly on making budget changes at the halfway point of the state’s two-year funding cycle. Overall, it was a good session for DHS.
I wanted to share a few highlights for DHS. The Oregon State Legislature made new investments in us and our provider partners because it understands our needs and values our work to create safety, health and independence for all Oregonians. We appreciate the support of the Legislature.
The most significant investment came through a collaboration between Gov. Kate Brown and legislators to provide $13.3 million to add staff in Child Welfare. With the new funding, we will hire 186 staff to improve child safety, stabilize our Child Welfare workforce, and support foster families. The positions will be phased-in over the remainder of the biennium. Our Child Welfare program has been severely understaffed for years and the new positions are a big step forward in bringing relief to our staff and more attention to the children who need our protection.
We also got support to collaborate with the Home Care Commission to establish minimum training standards for home care workers and personal support workers. Over 30,000 home care workers and personal support workers serve more than 25,000 vulnerable Oregonians each month. This training investment will enhance the safety, stability and quality of life for those served in-home through the Aging and People with Disabilities (APD) and Office of Developmental Disabilities Services (ODDS) programs.
Other highlights, by program, included:
- A five percent increase for Community Based Care providers, effective in July.
- An extension of the nursing facility provider assessment through 2026 that is estimated to generate $72 million in the 2019-21 biennium and $156 million in the 2021-23 biennium.
- Funding to hire 33 positions in the Background Check Unit to reduce the backlog to two weeks by the end of December 2018.
Child Welfare (CW)
- Approval for $750,000 to support foster parents through respite care, a mentoring program, and to provide funds to meet urgent needs such as car seats or beds for foster children.
- Funding to reimburse the Applicable Adoption Account to pay for a new child care assistance program for foster parents who work outside the home, and for post-adoption and post-guardianship assistance.
- Funding for 10 positions for the Children’s Intensive In-Home Services (CIIS) and Children’s Residential programs.
- Approval of the plan to achieve a $12 million overall budget reduction through management actions to prevent reductions in services, eligibility or rates in the current biennium.
Self-Sufficiency Programs (SSP):
- Approval of two bills to allow low-income families to save for higher education expenses and retirement, and still apply for services. HB 4079 requires DHS to disregard as resources money held in specified pension and retirement accounts when determining eligibility for the cash assistance program. SB 1554 requires DHS to disregard money held in specified higher education accounts when determining financial eligibility for public assistance.
You will be hearing more details about these investments and other legislative actions that affect your work from your program directors. Our regular End of Session Report also will post to our website at www.oregon.gov/dhs later this month and is another good source of information. If you have questions in the meantime, contact your legislative coordinator:
APD and ODDS: Angie Allbee at firstname.lastname@example.org
Central/Shared Services, SSP and VR: Jill Gray at email@example.com
Child Welfare: Cynthia Stinson at firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s your dedication and hard work that leads to investments and legislation that helps us do more and better for the people we serve. Thank you for all you do!