The nearly $30 million in cuts announced by the Oklahoma Department of Human Services on Tuesday spared any one program from elimination.
Even with spreading the funding reductions throughout various programs that provide assistance to vulnerable adults and children, the impact will be hard when felt.
One of the largest cuts is a $9.2 million reduction in billable hours through the ADvantage Medicaid Waiver program
“There is no doubt more of the people we serve will be forced into an institution due to the reductions,” said Steve Goforth, president of Oxford HealthCare and officer with the Home and Community Based Services Council.
The waiver program provides nearly 23,000 older Oklahomans with services and supplies designed to keep people independent and in their homes.
According to DHS, the ADvantage cuts mean those receiving 20 hours of personal care each week could lose up to five hours of assistance per week.
Just how the cuts to the program will play out is unclear at this point, Goforth said.
“(It’s) a sad commentary about the priority placed on the elderly citizens who are responsible for building Oklahoma,” he said.
Child care subsidies are another area hit hard in the latest round of cuts.
DHS will implement a six-month freeze on new applications for the subsidies starting in October. The move is projected to save the agency $4 million while impacting more than 1,000 children each month.
“This is another example of how the recent state budget revenue failures are repeatedly jeopardizing our most vulnerable children and families,” said Kevin Burr, CEO of the Community Service Council. “We need to show Oklahoma’s struggling families that we support them and will invest in helping them achieve long-term self-sufficiency. Cutting child care subsidies from thousands of working families does not send that message.”
The Community Service Council operates the Child Care Resource Center, which supports more than 750 child care programs across eastern Oklahoma.
Statewide, 66 percent of children live in households where both parents are working, and 57,125 children received subsidized child care in 2016.
These cuts will result in families being unable to afford child care and withdrawing from the workforce or leaving children at home and a reduction in jobs in the child care sector, Burr added.
“These much-needed supports ensure all children and working parents from all income levels have access to high-quality, affordable child care programs, an indisputable necessity for Oklahoma’s workforce and economy as a whole,” he said.
Another $2.9 million reduction is coming to Developmental Disabilities Service waivers for in-home services by reducing the cap on adult services to $14,000 a year and the cap on children’s waivers to $9,300.
“The opportunity to choose to receive supports in order to have a home, family, friends a job and a regular life in the community is not a privilege, but a right,” said Mary Ogle, CEO of A New Leaf, an nonprofit that provides at-home care and vocational skills for individuals with disabilities.
The cuts impact not only the more than 1,300 clients currently receiving assistance but the more than 7,000 children and adults with disabilities who are on a 10-year waiting list to receive home or community-based services.
“Many individuals who have a disability are truly dissatisfied with their quality of life and want more for themselves,” Ogle said. “The state is sending a message that their desire to better themselves does not matter.”
These and other cuts will be implemented during this fiscal year.
Additional cuts include: $4.2 million through a 5 percent, or $1 a day, reduction in reimbursements to foster families; $3.4 million in administrative and internal cuts; $1.7 million reduction in funding meals for older adults; $500,000 reduction in funding for SmartStart, and $400,000 in reduced funding for TANF contracts.
A further $2.9 million in reductions has yet to be determined.