Bonuses granted to Oklahoma DHS employees

Wednesday, October 27th 2004, 6:13 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- About 7,500 state Department of Human Services workers are in line for one-time bonuses of $1,000.

The Commission for Human Services approved DHS Director Howard Hendrick's plan Tuesday to use reward money for the one-time employee bonuses.

The money will come from "high-performance bonus awards" that the agency earned for program improvements, including funds that came from the federal government for helping welfare clients seek and obtain employment.

Bonuses will be paid to permanent employees and temporary workers that Hendrick determines are worthy. Employees could see the bonuses in up to 10 working days, said George Earl Johnson Jr., DHS spokesman.

It is the first time in the history of the agency that employees have been given such a bonus, Johnson said.

"They really don't get paid as well as they ought to," said Steve Scott, director for the DHS's Area VI, which includes Tulsa, Osage, Creek and Washington counties.

"I think there is a lot of meaning in terms of the agency showing to them they appreciate the hard work they have done and the accomplishments and that they value them as employees," he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded the agency $2.9 million in bonuses for its administration of the food stamp program.

It earned slightly more than a $1 million bonus from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for increasing adoptions.

The agency was also awarded $3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for improved wages among welfare clients and longer lengths of employment after they left the welfare rolls. The money was also for improvements in the number of two-parent families raising children.

Coupled with federal matching funds, the agency expects to have $15.9 million available. It plans to use $7.9 million for the bonuses.

Up to $500,000 will be spent on post-adoption services, such as counseling.

The remaining $7.5 million will be used for technology improvements, such as software upgrades.

Hendrick sent a memo to employees immediately after the commission meeting.

"I think you know this, but you are doing an awesome job," he wrote. "Thank you for your resourcefulness and your incredible resilience during these challenging times. I am proud of the great job each of you is doing."

Employees were delighted with the news.

"I think it's exciting, not just for me personally but for all the employees," said Douglas Doe, a communications technology specialist for the department. "It sends a message that hard work has its rewards."