Several more divisions of the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) received spending reductions in budgets set by lawmakers Thursday. DHW director Dick Armstrong said the reductions were in line with previous budgets set by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), and will lead to some office closures and changes in DHW service.
“We are struggling to keep up with the workload that is at our door today,” Armstrong told IdahoReporter.com. He has said that DHW has been reassessing its costs in employees and offices since permanent holdbacks were announced in January. “What we’re trying to do is retrench and redefine what our role and responsibility is in light of the budget we’ve been given. We’re having to make decisions between good causes. We’re not making decisions between issues that are not important because they’re all important.”
Armstrong said DHW will likely close some of its smaller offices across the state because they are less efficient. “2012 is not going to be any better, so we really have to retreat to a smaller, more efficient workforce for the future,” he said. “We’re spending an immense amount of time stopping and rethinking our mission.” Armstrong said that the Friday furloughs at DHW offices won’t continue into the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
The biggest overall budget reduction set by JFAC Thursday is in the Division of Welfare, which will lose $53 million in federal funding, much of it one-time money from the federal stimulus act. Federal money covers $90 million of the $124 million welfare budget. The state’s $31.6 million share of the welfare budget would drop $11.5 percent. State general fund money for the Division of Child Welfare would decrease 7.9 percent to $19.8 million. Lawmakers also approved shifting $1.7 million in state money from child welfare to the children’s mental health budget and using federal funds to make up the difference. State funding for developmentally disabled services would drop $934,800, an 8.6 percent decrease. That budget would get an additional $1.1 million in stimulus money, so its overall $40 million budget would only decrease 3.9 percent.
STAY CONNECTED with the latest news, research and opinions from the Gem State.