Celebrating ​gains for the communities we serve

Director's Message
Message from ​Director Fariborz Pakseresht

March 7, 2022

2022 Legislative​ Ses​sion recap

The Oregon Legislature's 2022 The Oregon Legislature's 2022 session came to a close on March 4, delivering a number of important gains for Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) and the people we serve. This session, ODHS prioritized three agency-wide goals – strengthening our foundations, responding to emergencies, and creating the future of human services. I'm delighted to report that the session resulted in investments that will advance our work in all three areas.​

Strengthening Fou​​​​​ndations

Children and families across Oregon will benefit from new investments in the state's child welfare systems. For example, the legislature approved $15.9 million and 99 permanent staff positions that will allow ODHS Child Welfare to strengthen central operations and provide enhanced coaching and guidance to child welfare workers around the state. ODHS Child Welfare also joined with the Oregon Youth Authority to request support for the state's Behavior Rehabilitation Services (BRS), a program serving children who have specialized and unique needs. The legislature fully funded that request.  

Lawmakers further invested in agency foundations through packages that will support ODHS' statewide service infrastructure, including $3.6 million to increase Vocational Rehabilitation provider rates, which will retain key employment services for people with disabilities. In addition, the legislature approved $435.6 million in federal funds for the statewide Medicaid home- and community-based services (HCBS) that support people with disabilities and people who are aging. ODHS will match these federal funds with state dollars already in our budget. 

Respondi​​ng to Eme​​rgencies​

The legislature approved $1 million for 211info, a contact center that helps connect Oregonians to a range of health and social services including emergency food and shelter. The investment will make this critical service available 24 hours a day, representing an important step toward greater statewide emergency preparedness.    

In 2021, House Bill 5006 allocated nine limited-duration positions to ODHS Office of Resilience and Emergency Management (OREM) to support wildfire recovery and other disaster response efforts. This session, the legislature made the nine positions permanent. Moving forward, OREM will continue to shelter and feed Afghan refugees and provide emergency shelter, meals, and wraparound services to survivors of the 2020 and 2021 wildfires. The team will also focus on initiatives to increase Oregon's disaster preparedness, including the expansion of its Mass Care Response Teams, assisting localities in establishing cooling and clean air centers for use during extreme heat and wildfire events, and conducting exercises at key sites throughout the state in preparation for a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake.

Creating the Future of Hu​man Services

The legislature approved $26.1 million for ODHS Self-Sufficiency Programs, which administers the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The package, which represents the largest increase to the TANF benefit in Oregon's history, will activate a set of upstream solutions for families participating in the program, including:  

  • Allowances to help parents pay for seasonal weather-appropriate clothing for their children; 
  • A permanent increase on the asset limit that determines TANF eligibility, which will help participating families preserve more of their resources and save for the future;   
  • The expansion of Oregon's statewide Family Support and Connections program to serve more families, prioritizing Black, Indigenous, and families of color.  

Research indicates that measures to reduce child poverty promote better outcomes for children well into adulthood – contributing to a stronger social fabric that benefits everyone. We commend the legislature for its support of this important work.  

We also look forward to welcoming the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Advancement, which was transferred from the Governor's Office to ODHS per Senate Bill 1550. The office is charged with operating a statewide immigrant and refugee integration strategy that includes advocacy and data collection – work that aligns with our existing efforts to support immigrants and refugees as they resettle and rebuild their lives in Oregon. 

Lookin​​g ah​ead

I'd like to extend my deepest thanks to the many ODHS staff members and program leaders who worked to advance the agency's priorities in 2022. While we didn't receive all that we requested, your endeavors have helped define our path toward 2023 and beyond.     

The investments highlighted here represent vital supports for ODHS' ongoing work – work that, in turn, provides vital supports to people in our state. We also find reasons to celebrate as we look beyond our agency at broader wins for the people we serve. From expanding families' equit​able access to child care to guaranteeing overtime pay for farmworkers, the legislature made significant investments in efforts that directly align with our Equity North Star.  

We thank the legislature for demonstrating its commitment to human services in our state, and we look forward to our continued partnership as we help bring that commitment to life.

​Stay Connected

Social media icons