DSHS to cut jobs, increase furloughs

The state's largest agency will cut 380 jobs statewide and increase the number of unpaid days off.

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The Department of Social and Health Services State ordered spending cuts of 6.3 percent Wednesday, including elimination of 380 jobs and additional unpaid furloughs for employees by June 30.

In Walla Walla County, the agency has 52 employees, all of whom will be affected by the increased furloughs. Whether or how many positions will be cut here is unknown.

And the arm of state government that oversees the Medicaid health program for low-income people separately announced $112.8 million in cuts that would eliminate prescription drug help next March for Medicaid recipients and reduce spending on children's health insurance subsidies.

DSHS is the state's largest agency.

The cuts align with Gov. Chris Gregoire's executive order to cut most state agencies' spending across-the-board by 6.3 percent. Announcements by other agencies are due by Friday, the date the governor's order takes effect. The Department of Corrections plans an announcement today.

In the case of DSHS, spending cuts of $168 million will require nine one-day "temporary layoffs," or unpaid furloughs, for workers not already subject to temporary layoff days ordered by the Legislature in April. The DSHS cuts require more furlough days for those already subject to that order.

The DSHS cuts begin Friday, and layoff notices have gone out to an unspecified number of workers, DSHS spokesman Thomas Shapley said.

The furloughs will be felt in every community, noted John Wiley, Eastern Washington media relations manager for the agency. "Employees already taking 10-day furloughs will now be asked to take 12 ... there will be a trickle-down effect."

Employees making less at DSHS will spend less in their communities.

"Obviously there is going to be some attrition. Obviously there is going to be some layoffs. Obviously there is going to be some jobs left open," Shapley said. His agency said the cuts are on top of 2,000 positions eliminated since June 2008.

The spending cuts will be most visible with losses to food stamp funding, mental health regional support and long-term care, Wiley said.

For example, food stamps will no longer be available for non-citizens, mental-health care contractors may be asked to accept less compensation for services and how services are delivered to long-term care patients will change.

People likely will have to wait longer for nearly every state-provided help. And again, private contractors bringing in less money in state contracts will reduce local spending, he pointed out. "There will be repercussions from this."

"And all this just basically gets us to June 1," Wiley said. "Then, in January, we start dealing with the budget deficit for (June) 2011."

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