More people than ever are relying on public programs amid rising unemployment, but the departments that administer them are facing budget cuts as well.
Food stamps, Medicaid, aid for families with dependent children … programs administered by the Department of Social Services are in more demand than ever. Meanwhile, state departments wait with bated breath to see where legislators will slash funding as they work to pass a balanced budget in the upcoming session.
Scott Rowson with Social Services says they’re working with the Governor’s staff and legislators even during off session to advise them on proposals they’ll be putting together. They’ll be watching proposals they’re not sponsoring but might impact their department or services as well, he says.
“Case loads have risen,” he says, as well as the number of people depending on food stamps, MoHealth Net and other core services, Rowson says, “But we’re confident we can take care of those core programs and services even given the struggle with the budget situation.”
Rowson says the department has already had a couple of rounds of budget restriction.
“We don’t know if that’s going to happen more going forward, but the pain is felt throughout the department,” he says. “That’s not something you can single one of our four program divisions over another.”
Rowson says the department has a lot of programs that largely comprise federal funding, such as MoHealth Net, the state’s Medicaid program. More than 80 percent of the department’s budget goes toward MoHealth Net, Rowson says, although 65 percent of those costs are covered by the federal government. The other 35 percent match that comes from the state is what the department works hard to protect.
“There’s really way to address the budget without taking a strong look at MoHealth Net,” Rowson says. “Can we separate out what we would we would like to do from what we absolutely have to do? That’s the question every time the Governor comes to us and says, ‘Hey, we have to operate a balanced budget in the state, we don’t have an option.’ We take a look at those core things and are committed to protecting those.”