Topeka Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday recommended funding for five state welfare offices, including the one in Lawrence, that last year were targeted by the governor for closure.
Brownback had earlier said he would include that funding proposal and followed through with a budget request of $815,182 that now goes to the Legislature for consideration.
“We are glad he did what he said he was going to,” said Douglas County Commissioner Mike Gaughan. “Now it is up to the Legislature.”
Last year, the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services proposed closing nine SRS offices as a cost-cutting move. The Lawrence office was by far the largest one on the closure list.
The proposal caused a public uproar as officials said it would leave vulnerable residents without access to services.
After weeks of negotiations, city and Douglas County leaders agreed to spend $450,000 over two years to the pay rent on the SRS facility in Lawrence. SRS officials agreed to try to restore state funding of the office. Four other cities hammered out similar deals.
But some legislators said it wasn’t fair to force some cities to provide local funds for an SRS office while the state footed the bill in other cities.
Under Brownback’s proposal, the state funding would be for the fiscal year starting July 1.
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said that under the agreement, no local funds have been spent yet on the local SRS office. The first payment is due in February, he said.
He said local officials are hoping the state provides all the funding so no local funds will have to be expended.
Under Brownback’s budget plan, he also proposes transferring many of the functions of SRS to a new Department of Aging and Disability Services and renaming SRS as the Department for Children and Families.
It was unclear how this would affect the Lawrence SRS office. In July there were 87 filled positions at the Lawrence SRS office, and in December that had decreased to 72, according to SRS spokeswoman Angela De Rocha. She said most of the decrease was attributed to the state’s early voluntary retirement program.