BISMARCK, N.D. _ The billion dollar barrier has been broken.
The North Dakota House and Senate both gave approval Wednesday to a Department of Human Services budget that calls for general fund spending of $1.165 billion in the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
“We went over a billion dollars,” said Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, in describing House Bill 1012.
With federal and other special funds, total spending for the department for the coming two years is pegged at nearly $2.9 billion.
The record agency budget gained approval just two days after Gov. Jack Dalrymple named Maggie Anderson to head the state’s largest agency.
Anderson had served as interim director of Human Services since August 2012.
There’s a reason Human Services has such a big budget: It has a lot of employees and provides a lot of services.
Pollert said the new budget increases the department’s workforce to 2,200 full-time equivalent positions.
After hearing legislators approve the appropriation, Anderson described her agency’s budget as one that sends most of the money right back out the door.
“It goes not only to citizens of the state, but also to the economy of local areas,” she said.
Programs fund food stamps that are redeemed at local grocery stores, pay for services at local nursing homes, and help citizens with medical and dental care and pharmacy expenses.
Of the total $2.9 billion budget, $1.8 billion will go for Medicaid services to care for people in nursing homes, developmental disability centers and hospitals, as well as such services as pharmacy and ambulance.
Medicaid accounts for 63 cents of every Human Services dollar, Anderson said.
Field services account for 10 cents of every dollar, including operating the State Hospital in Jamestown, the developmental center in Grafton and eight regional human service centers.
Direct client services, like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, aging services, child care assistance, vocational rehabilitation, and child support use 20 cents of every Human Services dollar.
“What remains after all that is 7 cents,” which covers administrative and operating costs, Anderson said.
The budget bill now goes to the governor for his signature.