NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Gov. Phil Bredesen announced Wednesday that the Tennessee Department of Children's Services will lose $73 million in federal funding.
In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Bredesen said federal rule changes slashed reimbursements to states providing child protective and welfare services.
The cuts went into effect in March.
Bredesen said the state will pick up the $17-million tab through July 1.
If Tennessee fails to get relief from the loss of funding, DCS will put in place contingency plans including departmental budget cuts and workforce reductions. About 160 employees or 3 percent of the department's 5,160-member workforce may be laid off.
The state's juvenile court system could also lose $7 million in grant money.
"But I'm holding out there is some chance that maybe this problem will be made to go away by the Congress over the course of the next couple months," Bredsen said. "If it doesn't, we need to make a number of changes July 1 to address this."
Regardless of what happens, DCS Commissioner Viola Miller said the department will fight to keep caseworkers employed and their caseloads manageable.
"You singlehandedly diminish the quality of that work," she said. "This is the hardest work in the world. There is no harder work. And it is just a mistake in my opinion to overload those caseworkers to let those caseloads get too high."
Bredesen said the timing of the cuts couldn't be worse because of already thin state budget, which can't cover the extra cost.
"It adds probably another 25 percent to my budget, probably," he said. "So it's the most single significant budget issue that I have in terms of cost."
Bredesen said there is a about 50 percent chance Congress will be able to save the DCS dollars.
He said Tennessee is not taking any chances. The state has filed a lawsuit against the federal government to get the money back. The lawsuit could take years before a verdict is made, Bredesen said.
The annual budget for DCS is $650 million. The federal cuts slashed more than 10 percent from the agency's budget.
In Tennessee, 30,000 children could be affected in some way by these changes. The cuts will affect more than 30 other states as well. Several states including Tennessee rely heavily on these funds to help care for children.
NewsChannel 5.com - Nashville, Tennessee - DCS Faces $73M Cut
My two cents...
Perhaps now they will stop [il]legally kidnapping children that were NOT abused by their parents just for the $$$$$$ INCENTIVES$$$$$$ They WERE getting to "protect children"