Welfare Watch - August 20, 2009 - DHS Board Meets for First Time

On Wednesday, the Board of the Department of Human Services held their first meeting.  It was marked as a historic event for the Department. The new Board selected its officers for the Board. 

The Board took up two important items of business, the budget and proposed rule changes for Special Needs Children.

Other items on the agenda included a presentation by Commissioner B.J. Walker on the proposed budget for FY2010 amended and FY2011.  Due to a continued decline in projected state revenues, in a memo dated July 21, 2009 from the Governorís Office of Planning and Budget mandating that all state agencies submit budget reduction plans of 4%, 6% and 8% for both FY 2010 Amended and FY 2011. The Governor has instructed all Departments to immediately reduce expenditures by 5%.  Regular and salaried employees are to take 3 additional furlough days by the end of the year--DHS offices will close for these three days.  These days are September 4th, November 25th and December 31st.  Between October and June, nine more furlough days will be taken. 

The Commissioner explained that furloughs are being taken in an effort to prevent layoffs of important staff, the elimination of key programs, and to maintain "Maintenance of Effort" (MOE) for Federal Match.  Non-essential travel will be eliminated.  No equipment purchases will be allowed and all new hires must be approved by the Commissioner.  The Commissioner expressed anguish with the cuts that have to be made in these economic times.  More detailed information can be found in Commissioner Walker's budget presentation

The cuts were presented in cumulative fashion.  The cuts to the budget for FY2010 amended and FY2011 were somewhat mirrored.  As with last year's budget presentation, the percentages of cuts were placed in hierarchy in which they will be made as the situation dictates.  In the first round of cuts to get to the 5% figure, aging services were especially hard hit.  DHS staffing furloughs made up the largest percentage of the cuts.  In-home services such as prevention of placements, home supports and assessments were cut 10% to 12%.   The independent living program for youth transitioning to adulthood from foster care would face a 10% cut. 

All these cuts represent cuts to important services to families, children and the aged.  In times of economic stress, these families can little afford more stress.  The Commissioner and the Board will have difficult decisions ahead of them if tough economic times continue.  Cuts through furlough days do preserve important programs and infrastructure while reaching the dollar cuts necessitated by the Governor's mandate. 

Welfare Watch, an email newsletter of the
Georgia Association of Homes
and Services for Children
as a public service.
Normer Adams, Editor

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