For months, Oklahoma has been struggling with a budget crisis that has threatened to shake the very foundations of the disability community in our state. Only a few weeks ago, several Oklahomans with disabilities received letters warning them that their in-home services would be terminated on December 1st. However, a last-minute measure may have saved Oklahoma Disability Services, but we are still left wondering how long this new reprieve will last.
Were Oklahoma Disability Services Saved by Governor Fallin?
Just before the week of Thanksgiving, Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that promised to close the $215 million shortfall in the state’s budget. At first, this would seem like a bad deal for Oklahoma, but the vetoed bill actually contained many cuts to agency budgets as well as raids on state savings accounts. Instead, Fallin only approved an $80 million section of the bill, which provided funding to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Human Services.
Out of the $80 million supplement, DHS will be taking some $26.9 million. And though this only reduces the DHS shortfall to $42 million, it is enough to keep in-home services for seniors and people with disabilities going. Now DHS officials are trying to figure out how long this new funding will support the valuable in-home services the state provides. For now, they can only hope that the fund last until state lawmakers figure out a more permanent solution.
These emergency funds came from the transportation fund that improves county roads and bridges. Oklahomans with disabilities who received letters about the cancellation of their in-home services should soon receive letters about program continuations. Governor Fallin has now asked the Legislature to return to the state Capitol for another special session to address the remaining budget issues. But will they be able to finally settle the budget? The Tulsa disability attorneys at Troutman & Troutman will keep a close eye on the situation as it develops.