Georgia state capitol building

Georgia's state capitol building in Atlanta, GA.

The department that oversees social services for Georgia’s children, elderly and low-income families will have to work with a budget that's $46 million lighter for the next two years.

The Department of Human Services plans to cut agency staff, services for the elderly and foster children. It is a part of a state-wide directive issued by Gov. Brian Kemp last month.

All state agencies are required to cut spending for Fiscal Year 2020 by 4 percent, and 6 percent for 2021.

The Board of Human Services unanimously approved the agency’s proposed cuts Wednesday, two days ahead of Kemp's Sept. 6 deadline.

The DHS is Georgia’s largest state agency with three divisions – Aging Services, Child Support Services and Family and Children Services. It currently has 8,500 employees, according to a spokesperson. Four advocacy programs are also attached to the agency’s $1.9 billion budget. DHS’ total proposed budget adjustment for 2020 is $19 million less, and $27 million less for 2021.

“I am confident that the cuts we are making are reasonable and moderate, and will continue to allow us to do our work,” said Tom Rawlings, the director of the Division of Family and Children Services.

The spending cuts, if approved by the Office of Planning and Budget, will affect all three divisions.

The biggest cuts to the DHS budget will eliminate 200 positions and related travel expenses, which include positions in the offices for Child Support Services, Elderly Abuse Investigations and Elderly Support Services, many which are listed as vacant.

In 2021, the department plans to cut positions for 73 Child Welfare Services field staff, who oversee child abuse cases and find foster and adoptive homes for children, among other duties. 

Another 105 positions for field workers, who facilitate the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and childcare assistance will be eliminated. Eliminating these positions will reduce spending by more than $6 million in 2020. Twenty-one Child Welfare Services administration and 10 percent of Foster Parent Support positions will be cut in both years.

The state plans to eliminate it’s Closed Case Project, which monitors children who have aged-out of Georgia’s foster care system. It will save the state $940,000 in both fiscal years.

Spending on Elderly Services will be by reduced by $2.1 million in 2020 by decreasing funds for elderly abuse investigations, living and meal services. The funding will continue to decline in 2020. It will be slashed by $3.3 million next year.

Kemp ordered the state agencies to reduce spending and streamline operations on Aug. 6.

“Thanks to years of strong, conservative leadership and pro-growth policies, our state's economy is thriving. To secure an even brighter future for our state, we must continue to budget conservatively, spend wisely, and put Georgia taxpayers first,” Kemp said.

Staff Writer

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.