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ND human services budget sets record

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- The next two-year budget for North Dakota's Department of Human Services has broken the billion-dollar mark.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed the Human Services budget Wednesday that calls for state general fund spending just under $1.2 billion — a record state agency budget.

Human Services is the largest state agency, with more than 2,100 employees. Total spending for the department, including federal money, is estimated at $2.9 billion over the next two years, the majority on Medicaid services.

Dalrymple said the bill provides valuable services to seniors and disabled North Dakotans. It also provides funding for health care providers, hospitals and rural health clinics.

The measure reflects "a historic investment in our people, especially our most vulnerable citizens," the governor said.

Agency 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.

"It goes not only to citizens of the state, but also to the economy of local areas," Human Services Director Maggie Anderson said. She was appointed to head the department Monday and had been serving as interim director after her predecessor, Carol Olson, retired last August.