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More State Budget Cuts Take Effect

October 3, 2011

REDMOND, Ore. - Arrows shot by the 2011 Legislature are hitting their marks this week, as more budget cuts went into effect October 1. Among them are stricter requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and reductions in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for people with disabilities.

In July, the Oregon Legislature also cut job training, child care and transportation assistance for poor families.

At the housing authority in Redmond, called Housing Works, housing and resident services director Kenny LaPoint says the cuts have a domino effect: When people aren't able to pay as much for housing, they need housing vouchers to make up the difference, and bigger vouchers per household means fewer are available.

"Especially with those TANF cuts as they come along, it puts us in a position - it puts all housing authorities in a position, in the state of Oregon - to where they need to make tough decisions, and it may involve cutting families and putting them out on the street."

He says the housing authority in central Oregon already has an eight-year waiting list, and that cuts are making it more difficult to hold the safety net in place. In addition to the TANF cuts, some families of people with disabilities will get $100 less per month.

The Department of Human Services made these cuts, and increasingly is referring people to such organizations as the United Community Action Network for help with food, rent and utilities. The Network's executive director, Mike Fieldman, says the programs they offer are also getting fewer federal dollars. He believes that, in this economy, the combination of cuts is short-sighted.

"As parents' incomes are reduced, as TANF benefits are reduced or eliminated, it's the kids who suffer from that. And that's going to have a real, long-term impact on society. So, we have to think about return on investment, for how we prioritize the use of our tax dollars."

Fieldman is especially worried about a shortage of heating assistance funds for the coming winter.

In response to the latest cuts, a coalition of advocates called the Housing Alliance says it will ask the Legislature to reconsider, and do more to protect the most vulnerable Oregonians.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR