The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is warning of catastrophic cuts to programs and services for vulnerable citizens and considering closing some county offices and laying off employees amid the state's budget crisis.
DHS Director Ed Lake in a letter sent Friday to employees and contractors that the agency already is grappling with a $150 million hole in its current budget from a combination of state cuts, increased costs and dwindling federal funds.
“Our fiscal circumstances are so serious that we must examine the potential for reductions in every administrative, service, benefits and program area in this agency,” said Lake. “This news cannot be sugar-coated—the results will be painful, barring what would be some kind of fiscal miracle,” Ed Lake said.
Lake says DHS is considering fee increases to support its oversight, licensing and enforcement programs, along with cuts to programs that support the elderly and disabled. He added that many contracts with outside vendors will be reduced or eliminated entirely.
“These cuts have virtually eliminated any funds we normally hold for emergencies and most of the carryover funds that would have been available to maintain expenditure levels in the coming fiscal year,” said Lake. “Dire financial circumstances are forcing us to make significant cuts now while we plan with utmost seriousness for implementing potentially disastrous actions that will most assuredly compromise our ability to carry out the core services of DHS—primary “safety net” services,” Ed Lake said.
Lake says the agency also is planning for potential employee layoffs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.