Message from Director Fariborz Pakseresht and Deputy Director Liesl Wendt
July 1, 2021
Oregon State Legislature finalizes ODHS investments for next two years
On Friday, June 25, the Oregon State Legislature passed the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) budget for 2021-23. When signed by the Governor, it will position ODHS to improve equity and the well-being of Oregonians and their communities as we rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires.
The new budget brings ODHS:
- Funding to continue services for caseloads and costs per case into 2023-25. There were also investments that increase rates, increase eligibility for some programs, and reinstate services cut or reduced in the 2019-21 biennium to support Oregonians and the critical provider infrastructure ODHS relies on for service provision.
- $15.5 billion in total funds for the 2021-23 biennium
- $4.6 billion in state funds, up from $3.7 billion
- 10,140 positions, up from 9,574
Our Government Relations team is putting the finishing touches on a report on the 2021 legislative session that includes details on the budget, other bills that provide funds to ODHS, and bills that make policy changes that will impact ODHS and the Oregonians we serve. Until then, we wanted to share highlights.
We sent a budget request to the Governor last fall. Since then, we have presented the Legislature with a picture of how the agency serves Oregonians, the outcomes we are driving toward, and how we plan to achieve our goals while making the best use of public resources. Our budget request was carefully designed around three objectives:
- Laying the tracks to address disproportionate outcomes among historically underserved communities
- Serving as a cornerstone for communities and a revitalized economy, as Oregon recovers from the pandemic and wildfires
- Building foundations for more resilient communities and economic prosperity
In our budget request we prioritized investments in four themes to support our objectives: equity; access to services; supporting the well-being of Oregonians and their communities, and workforce development.
Becoming an equitable organization
The budget bill provides $5.6 million in total funds to address the roots of systemic oppression that impact all protected classes. The funding enables ODHS to improve equity and accessibility in service delivery to communities of color and historically disadvantaged groups; to provide greater language access within the Office of Development Disabilities Services (ODDS), and to increase capacity in the Office of Equity and Multicultural Services.
Also notable was the passage of HB 2505 which creates the Child Welfare Equity Advisory Committee within the Governor's Oregon Child Foster Care Advisory Commission to address inequities and advise the Department.
Supporting the well-being of Oregonians and their communities
Our core work is to provide services and supports for all to achieve well-being and improve community conditions. This year the Legislature made investments that contribute to the foundation for lifelong well-being.
Historic investments were made in the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) system. Investments in the ODDS workforce will help ensure we have a robust service delivery system that provides quality supports to people with I/DD. The investments include full funding for new provider rate models starting July 1, 2022. This funding will be critical to improving quality in our service system and will result in higher wages for Direct Support Professionals who serve people with I/DD.
Several other investments to highlight:
- $4.4 million in general funds and 52 positions to expand Oregon Project Independence (OPI) and create a new Family Caregiver Supports program. This funding expands OPI to assist consumers who need a lighter amount of supports to continue to live at home and creates a program to support consumers receiving supports from unpaid or family caregivers.
- $10 million in general funds and three positions to create the Survivor Investment Partnership program to provide domestic violence and sexual assault services to survivors through contracts with culturally specific organizations and Tribes.
- $4.3 million in general funds for refugee extended case management and employment support services.
- $5.9 million in general funds and two permanent positions in the Foster Care and Youth Transitions Unit to expand the Independent Living Program with a goal of improving outcomes for youth in their young adulthood.
Also notable was the passage of HB 3073. The bill establishes a new agency called the Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) that will consolidate child care and early education programs in one place to create a system that is more responsive to the needs of children, families and providers. The Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program administered by ODHS will move into the new agency in July 2023.
Improving access to our services
When the Stay Home, Save Lives order took effect in the early days of the pandemic, we quickly learned the importance of giving people more virtual options for connecting with us. And the 2020 wildfires reminded us how critical it is to mobilize swiftly and go to where survivors are sheltering to sign them up for benefits and services.
Supporting our efforts to increase access to ODHS, the Legislature is funding the ongoing maintenance and support of OregONEligibility, or ONE. Earlier this year ODHS and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) successfully expanded the ONE system to give Oregonians more choice and convenience in how they apply for medical, food, cash and child care benefits. Through ONE, Oregonians can apply for benefits, renew their coverage, upgrade case information and more online, by phone or in person.
Also notable was the passage of HB 5006 that provided funding to support 2020 wildfire survivors with shelter, meals and wraparound services.
Developing our workforce
Employees are what make our Department successful and the Legislature gave us funding to support the Human Resources team so it can better support an agency of our size. Human Resources received $10.8 million total funds to assist with agency recruitment, completing pay equity assessments, providing training and legal compliance, supporting labor negotiations, and handling workforce management issues.
Child Welfare also received positions to build out its internal training team in alignment with its vision for transformation and workforce development.
Our budget for the next two-year funding cycle takes effect today. Overall, the 2021-23 budget positions ODHS to advance our objectives for supporting every Oregonian and community in making a strong recovery from the pandemic and becoming a more equitable organization.
The Legislature's investments in ODHS are a direct reflection of the good work you have done through this challenging biennium. Thank you! We are honored to represent your work at the Legislature and are committed to careful stewardship of our budget in the biennium ahead.
Fariborz Pakseresht, Director
Liesl Wendt, Deputy Director