DHS Cuts Include Reduced Eligibility for Child Care Assistance Program

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The slowdown in oil and low commodity prices have led to a billion dollar revenue shortfall this biennium.

To help make up that gap, state agencies are being forced to cut their general fund budgets by more than 4 percent.

For the last several weeks, offices on every floor of the Capitol have been working diligently to find money in their budgets. Now we know how they'll get that done.

The Department of Human Services (DHS) has a budget of more than $1.3 billion, from capital projects to medical assistance grants.

"We provide services to vulnerable people and every adjustment we have to make, affects the lives of people," said Maggie Anderson, DHS executive director.

Among other cuts, to cover a more than $53 million allotment, DHS has decided to maintain most of its current services, but delay enhancements such as a mobile on-call crisis service for Bismarck. It's also reducing eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program from families earning 85 percent of state median income to 60 percent. Anderson said that will affect about 500 families.

"I couldn't hold one up and say this one was the most difficult. They were very challenging decisions to make," said Anderson.

For most of its allotments, the state treasurer's office will cut more than $10 million in property tax credits over the rest of the biennium in payments made out to counties and cities.

"The fact is they've got the opportunity to plan, and they are planning and they are working very diligently to try to get those numbers together to take them to forward to their governing bodies. So, lots of moving pieces," said Kelly Schmidt, North Dakota treasurer.

Schmidt says it's still unclear whether property owners will feel the effects on their property taxes.

Agency heads couldn't say if they would be forced to lay anyone off, but many are leaving positions unfilled and reducing planned salary increases.

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