Today the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) submitted its budget proposal for the 2021-23 biennium. Known as the Agency Request Budget (ARB), the proposal is our recommendation to the Governor for the resources we need to advance our vision for assisting all Oregonians in achieving safety, health and independence during the next budget cycle.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the recession it caused created an unusual backdrop for the development of our budget proposal. There is still so much unknown about the pandemic's impacts and we all are doing our best to adapt at home and at work as we learn more. The same will be true for the budget development process. It is a long process with many opportunities for change and we want to keep you updated on our progress when we reach milestones like we have today.
We've mentioned before that the state now anticipates a $4 billion shortfall for the next two-year budget cycle. That number could move up or down depending on what the state's next few revenue forecasts tell us. It also depends on whether new federal aid becomes available to help states recover and rebuild from the pandemic.
Our Department is in a unique position among state agencies because the need for our Department's services grows significantly during economic downturns, when state resources are tight. To be the best stewards of scarce resources, we have focused our 2021-23 budget proposal on the following priorities:
- Equity and inclusion. Disparities shown in our data reflect systemic racism, historic injustice, and inequitable distribution of power and resources in Oregon communities. Many investments proposed for the 2021-23 budget focus on improving access to programs and services for historically underserved populations who have been most significantly impacted by the pandemic, including communities of color and tribes, and Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Safety and prevention. While safety will always be a priority, providing upstream services for Oregonians, particularly children and families, can help reduce the need for intervention and provide stability.
- Empowerment, enforcement and accountability. We will continue to support our providers and empower them to provide the highest quality of services to our children, families, consumers and service recipients. At the same time, we will make enhancements to the Department's licensing and enforcement units to help us better protect the most vulnerable Oregonians, such as children, older adults, and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Efficiencies and alignment. We will continue implementing the ODHS Management System focusing on outcomes and results. We will continue to refine our focus on research, data and analytics to inform decisions. Investments in technology and efforts to align standards and services make our Department more efficient and easier to access for Oregonians.
These priorities are reflected in the investments we requested in the budget proposal. We submitted $285 million in Policy Option Packages for new investments. Most of the investments would support community-based organizations that provide services to Oregonians on our behalf and for modernization of antiquated information technology systems that help facilitate the delivery of services to Oregonians.
You also will see a list of options for potential reductions of up to 10 percent of our General Fund inside the proposal. The list is a mandatory part of the proposal. Whether the reductions occur depends on many elements, including the strength of the economy, fiscal status of the state, the Governor's priorities, and impacts of reductions on the people we serve.
Again, today's submission of our Agency Request Budget is the first step in a long process that spans around 10 months. Next, the Governor will review proposals from all agencies and produce a state budget balanced to the estimated available revenue. The Governor's Budget will be released in December. From there, the Oregon State Legislature takes up the task, holding hearings and ultimately approving each agency's individual budget and a state budget around July 2021.
During the budget development process, we will continue to carefully monitor the pandemic's economic impacts on the Department. We also will keep using the tools available to us to conserve our resources while still meeting the needs of Oregonians.
Our families, colleagues and neighbors are depending on us more than ever to help them weather the pandemic. You are a critical part of Oregon's fight against COVID-19 and will be a key part of our state's recovery from this devastating pandemic. I understand the difficulty of our work in these times and greatly appreciate your flexibility and resiliency, and the care you extend to those around you. I am honored to present our budget proposal on behalf of our staff, our partners and the people we serve.
We will keep you updated and please don't hesitate to talk with your manager or contact me with questions.