Oklahoma DHS to offer more buyouts, reduce some services

Nolan ClayThe Oklahoman(TNS)

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is offering more buyouts to its employees and cutting services to deal with budget cuts that so far total $43.5 million this fiscal year.

Officials announced the budget cuts Monday and warned things could get worse.

The services reduction means no new clients will be added — at least through the end of June — to a cash benefit program for low-income families with disabled children.

Typically, 25 families are added a month to the program that pays between $250 and $500 a month depending on the number of children with disabilities in the home. The program currently has 1,690 families.

“We have worked very hard throughout the past year to shield the people we serve as much as possible from budget cuts and revenue failures by dramatically reducing administrative costs, personnel and contracts,” said Ed Lake, DHS director.

“For this second revenue failure, we have strategically targeted reductions to program budgets which will minimize the impact on our most vulnerable clients,” he said. “If there is another revenue failure before the end of the year, however, the direct impact on our clients will undoubtedly be much more significant.”

The reduction in program budgets means DHS is not fully funding all the agencies that it partners with to provide services for the elderly.

DHS in March began a second round of buyout offers and expects 100 to 150 employees to leave, Powell said. During the first round, about 335 employees agreed to buyouts, she said.

The agency also plans to cancel most employee training and has negotiated lower rent at a third of its offices across the state.

DHS will began paying those who get AID to the Aged, Blind and Disabled every three months rather than every month. The transition is being done for cash flow reasons and to save administrative costs. There are currently 88,190 people who receive the state supplemental payments.