Legislature(2001 - 2002)

2001-02-22 Senate Journal

Full Journal pdf

2001-02-22                     Senate Journal                      Page 0475
SB 116                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 116 BY THE SENATE RULES COMMITTEE                                                   
BY REQUEST OF THE GOVERNOR, entitled:                                                               
             "An Act relating to the Alaska temporary assistance                                   
          program; and providing for an effective date."                                            
was read the first time and referred to the Health, Education and Social                            
Services, Judiciary and Finance Committees.                                                         
The following fiscal information was published today:                                               
 Fiscal Note No. 1, zero, Department of Health and Social Services                                  
Governor's transmittal letter dated February 21:                                                    
Dear President Halford:                                                                             
Five years ago my Administration worked with the Legislature to                                     
create a new welfare law for Alaska. Under the banner of welfare                                    
reform, we repealed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children and                                 
Job Opportunity and Basic Skills programs and created the Alaska                                    
Temporary Assistance Program (ATAP). We have had great success                                      
with the program, with more Alaskans transitioning from welfare to                                  
work and our caseload dropping by more than 40 percent. Like many                                   
other states addressing welfare reform, we recognize what changes are                               
needed to improve our program administration and ensure its                                         
continued success. These changes are addressed in the bill I transmit                               
The bill repeals the percentage limit on the number of families that                                
may continue on assistance for more than 60 months due to hardship.                                 
Removal of this limit will permit the Department of Health and Social                               
Services to base its hardship exceptions on objective criteria rather                               
than on a fixed percentage of overall caseload. As families are                                     
successful in finding work and the overall caseload decreases, the                                  
number of hardship cases makes up a greater percentage of the total.                                
Alaska set an extremely aggressive goal, compared to other states, in                               
capping our hardship cases at a specific percentage of the total. Other                             
states either avoided time limits completely or set a broader range of                              

2001-02-22                     Senate Journal                      Page 0476
exemptions to the limits. We now recognize the fixed percentage in                                  
our law artificially bars needy families with disabled adults from                                  
receiving essential cash assistance and services for their children. The                            
first families will begin to exceed the 60-month lifetime limit in July                             
of 2002.                                                                                            
The bill also addresses the seasonal reduction provisions for a two-                                
parent needy family by removing outdated eligibility requirements as                                
cited in a Superior Court ruling. This change permits the department to                             
apply the seasonal reduction provision to all two-parent needy families                             
in which both parents are physically and mentally able to work.                                     
Finally, the bill requires disabled parents to have self-sufficiency                                
plans. The state can better serve these parents by promoting their                                  
efforts toward self-sufficiency.                                                                    
We have seen dramatic, positive changes for poor Alaska families.                                   
Thousands of recipients have been assisted into work and the state has                              
saved millions of dollars in welfare benefit payments. The reform                                   
measures provided a durable framework for a new era of welfare in                                   
Alaska. I urge your favorable consideration for these improvements to                               
the program.                                                                                        
       Tony Knowles