Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/10/1994 01:45 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 409 An Act relating to the maximum amount of assistance that may be granted under the adult public assistance program and the program of aid to families with dependent children; proposing a special demonstration project within the program of aid to families with dependent children and directing the Department of Health and Social Services to seek waivers from the federal government to implement the project; and providing 1 for an effective date. HB 409 was HELD for further consideration. HOUSE BILL 409 "An Act relating to the maximum amount of assistance that may be granted under the adult public assistance program and the program of aid to families with dependent children; proposing a special demonstration project within the program of aid to families with dependent children and directing the Department of Health and Social Services to seek waivers from the federal government to implement the project; and providing for an effective date." Representative Hanley provided an overview of the proposed legislation, HB 409. He advised that the best way to reform welfare would be to get recipients off the system. He added, that this is what most Americans want from the welfare system and also what most welfare families want is job training, and work, self-sufficiency and pride. According to a recent survey by the State Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), 88% of the AFDC clients in Alaska said they would rather work than to be on welfare. Representative Hanley pointed out that HB 409 removes disincentives to work in the welfare program while providing positive incentives. The legislation would direct the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to apply for a waiver from the usual provisions governing AFDC programs to establish a "workfare" demonstration project. All able- bodied recipients would be required to either work for pay or provide community service or their benefits would be reduced. The legislation would include higher income disregards, higher vehicle allowances and child care assistance in order to make it easier for welfare recipients 2 to work. The bills demonstration project language would guide the DHSS to exercise authority in order to apply for welfare waivers. Also included in the bill would be an adjustment to the benefit formula added to help control rising costs. Representative Hanley summarized that America is ready to "end welfare as we know it". Other states are using waiver type projects to develop alternative welfare programs. It is time that Alaska, with its growing welfare rolls and dwindling revenues, become more efficient. Representative Hanley reviewed each section of CS HB 409 (HES). Representative Navarre advised that strong economic development within communities would be necessary in order to transition people from being on welfare into gainful employment. Co-Chair MacLean applauded the effort of the "workfare" program. Representative Brown asked if changes in Section Representative Hanley explained those stipulations would only apply to the control groups. Representative Brown asked if being in the control group would affect a person's eligibility for other programs. Representative Hanley stated that this portion of the waiver would not affect the other programs. CARRIE MCKEE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), AFDC MOTHER, MATANUSKA-SUSITNA VALLEY, testified against the legislation, most specifically the "workfare" program. She stated that currently there are not enough jobs available for people or enough day care assistance. Representative Hanley pointed out that the bill would provide child care and transportation for the pilot group. MEG GAYDOSIK, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), STATE PUBLIC POLICY CHAIR, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN (AAUW-ALASKA), FAIRBANKS, testified in opposition to the recommended reductions to Public Assistance. She stressed that the path out of poverty is through education and training and urged the Committee to reconsider the legislation. NIKKI KINNE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), RCPC HEAD START, FAIRBANKS, spoke in opposition to HB 409. She pointed out that there is not child care available for those persons on public assistance who want to work. She recommended placing more funds into early childhood 3 education. VICKI THAYER, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS RESOURCE AGENCY, FAIRBANKS, spoke in opposition to HB 409. She stated that the individuals whom she represents live on Adult Public Assistance and that any reduction to what they receive will significantly impact their lives. She thought that the legislation was unfair in that the individuals who were not eligible for the "workfare" portion of the bill would be asked to pay for those that are. (Tape Change, HFC 94-56, Side 2). JAN BOYD, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS RESOURCE AGENCY (FRA), FAIRBANKS, spoke against the legislation and the 1.7% reduction to those persons on Adult Public Assistance. LOUISE CHARLES, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), PROGRAM COORDINATOR FOR TANANA JOB TRAINING PROGRAM, TANANA CHIEFS CONFERENCE, FAIRBANKS, testified against the proposed legislation and the limitations it would make for the aged and disabled. She pointed out that the current JOBS Program is working well in the State and questioned the need to introduce an additional program at new and greater expenses. She pointed out that the House HESS Committee failed to make any changes to the proposed legislation after overwhelming testimony against the legislation. She urged that the bill be reconsidered for further changes. SALLY BENEVENT, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), HELPING HANDS, FAIRBANKS, spoke in opposition to the proposed legislation and the 1.7% reduction. She added that the job incentive program would not work as there are currently not enough jobs available in the State nor is there enough child care services available. Representative Hanley noted that those persons chosen for the pilot group will receive transportation and child care provided through the Department of Health and Social Services. JUDY BUSH, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), ALASKA LEGAL SERVICES, FAIRBANKS, spoke in support of the "waivers" and spoke against the remaining sections of HB 409. She stated that the bill is not a welfare reform bill adding that the "workfare" proposal would not be productive but would be expensive. She specifically spoke against the "rateable" issue and that its relationship to the percent of poverty level. "Poverty" is the bare minimum which a person can get by on; to receive 70% of poverty level is low, the level which AFDC participants receive. There will be long range future costs associated with keeping persons at this level. 4 Ms. Bush emphasized that those most affected by the legislation would be children, elderly and disabled individuals. Representative Hanley pointed out that Alaska pays the highest percentage of poverty level in the country. MARY LOU CANNEY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAMILY ADVOCATE, RCPC HEAD START, FAIRBANKS, spoke against the legislation. She noted that she was trained by the JOBS Program and currently employed. She urged the Committee not to eliminate that program. RUTH LISTOR, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), INTERIOR ALASKA WOMEN'S POLITICAL CAUCUS, FAIRBANKS, spoke in support of the "waivers" but spoke strongly against the corpus of the bill. She pointed out that little research was available on the workfare program, whereas, the JOBS Program is currently successful and would benefit the State with continued funding. DOROTHY PEAVY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMERS FOR ALASKA, ANCHORAGE, spoke against Section 3 of the proposed legislation pointing out that it would be unfair for those persons on APA to support the workfare program by having their stipends reduced for that purpose. Representative Brown provided the Committee with amendment effect of the proposed legislation would not enable people to achieve long term self sufficiency. She asked the Committee to give consideration to funding a "Healthy Start Program" as part of the legislation. Representative Hanley asked if a fiscal impact note was provided for the proposed amendment. Representative Brown stated that Page 2 of the amendment, states the funding intent to earmark half (1/2) of savings achieved through rateable reductions for creating a Healthy Start initiative. (Tape Change, HFC 94-57, Side 1). Representative Hanley advised that most people on the welfare system want to work and added that ninety (90) percent of the public thinks that people should work for the benefits received. The workfare portion of the bill is important and would differ from the requirements of the JOBS Training Program. The JOBS Training Program is a more comprehensive program dealing with education and training, whereas, the workfare program requires only work or community service. Representative Brown agreed that aspects of the current 5 program are not desireable, and pointed out that in many of the rural areas of the State, villages can not afford to hire a VPSO Officer. She asked how could the proposed program could work in such areas. Representative Hanley advised that much of the program would be community service. VIRGINIA ALLEN, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), STATEWIDE COORDINATOR FOR HEALTHY FAMILIES, ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition to HB 409 and the proposed 1.7% decrease to Adult Public Assistance. HB 409 was HELD in Committee for further discussion.