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Tuesday, February 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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DSHS to cut staff by 380

Long-term care, mental health programs trimmed

OLYMPIA — One of the state’s largest agencies will cut 380 employees, give the remaining staff two more days of unpaid leave and reduce the amounts spent on long-term care, mental health, children’s assistance and several other programs.

The Department of Social and Health Services detailed Wednesday how it will take the mandated 6.3 percent cuts that most state agencies other than public schools must take because of the state’s falling tax revenues.

DSHS is under orders to cut $168 million from its fiscal year budget and is the largest agency facing cuts ordered by Gov. Chris Gregoire after low revenue forecasts were released earlier this month.

To do that, DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus said the agency will cut spending on long-term care programs by $40 million, mental health spending by $25.6 million, children’s administration by $19.3 million, supplemental nutrition assistance for non-citizens by $7.2 million and the Disability Lifeline by $6.1 million.

“This is not just about reducing, this is about resetting for the future,” Dreyfus said in a press release announcing the cuts.

The agency will also cut 380 full-time equivalent positions; it’s already down 2,000 from the 2008 levels, she said. Those who remain will take two additional days off without pay, one in November and one next May. Like most state employees, DSHS workers had already been ordered to take 10 days off between last July and next June.

DSHS is the first state agency to announce its cuts, but other agencies are under orders to have their plans in place by Friday. The plans are submitted to the state’s Office of Financial Management, but aren’t formally approved by that agency or Gregoire, state officials said.

Glenn Kuper, a spokesman for OFM, said the agency or Gregoire could tell a department head to change something but “we’re not seeing anything yet that we’re telling them not to do.”

Kuper added: “It’s about what we expected, given the size of the cuts.”

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