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Pursuing cost savings in welfare and human services programs
This morning, the Senate Appropriations Committee listened to testimony from the Secretary of the Department of Human Services, Ted Dallas, regarding the FY 16-17 proposed budget. During our hearing, I posed questions to Secretary Dallas regarding the expansion of drug testing, welfare costs, and the departmentís use of office space.
When asking Secretary Dallas whether we should consider expanding drug testing to other counties beyond the 18 which already administer a drug testing program or require additional drug tests for other applicants applying for public benefits, Secretary Dallas was against this measure, stating the department does not believe these programs work or are cost-effective. Secretary Dallas went on to state other issues such as constitutionality and the deterrence of individuals from seeking the help they need to overcome their drug habit.
I made it a point during my question and answer period with the Secretary to mention that one thing that greatly upsets residents in the 29th district is the abuse of the welfare system. It is critical that we look for ways to reduce wasteful spending and inefficiencies that ultimately fall at the hands of taxpayers. In response to my question about welfare costs, Secretary Dallas noted that the number of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients has gone down dramatically since the start of the administration. Secretary Dallas stated there are 17,000 fewer families receiving TANF benefits and the number of people leaving the program for employment has gone up. He went on to say that while this has an impact on reducing welfare costs, what mainly drives the departmentís costs is healthcare when the jobs these individuals accept does not provide health care coverage or if they remain eligible to receive Medicaid.
The administration continues to work on fraud and abuse and reminded senators that 67% of the human services budget goes towards services for senior citizens and those with disabilities.
Senator Randy Vulakovich and I are examining initiatives that will create efficiencies within state government when it comes to state-owned and leased office space, storage, parking and other facilities. I asked Secretary Dallas about how much office space the department has eliminated given the substantial decrease in the number of employees who work at the department. Secretary Dallas noted that the biggest savings or reductions in office space from the department often come from the closing of facilities (county assistance offices, state centers and state hospitals) and therefore a change in office space doesnít always mirror the reduction in the number of staff.
Exploration further into this issue will take place in the near future.
You can watch our full discussion here.