Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/18/1994 08:40 AM 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 1 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. HB 409 was HELD in Committee for further discussion. 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." CORAY LUDDEN, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), WRCC, KENAI, spoke in opposition to HB 409 and the punitive penalty which it proposes. She emphasized that welfare recipients would rather work than continue to be subsidized although they are not able to because there are no jobs available. Ms. Ludden agreed with Representative Navarre that long range economic planning is necessary in order to resolve the welfare problems of Alaska. BARBARA LANDIS, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), MATSU, spoke in support of HB 409 and specifically urged greater funding for fraud investigation. NIKKI KINNE, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, testified against the proposed legislation reiterating that AFDC recipients would prefer to work. She stressed that AFDC is not a way of life although it creates a psychologically and environmentally hazardous condition. Ms. Kinne urged that relevant effort create a sustainable and flexible program. She recommended encouraging welfare participants the opportunity to devise a feasible plan within their individual communities. BETTY BARTELS, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), CITC JOBS, ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition to HB 409, although she recommended raising the vehicle ownership amount to a higher level as proposed in the legislation. She urged continued support for the JOBS Training Program. She concluded stating that the JOBS program and the workfare program would be in competition for proposed funds. 2 MARY LOU CANNEY, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, spoke in opposition to the proposed legislation elaborating that persons on the welfare system have little self esteem. She added that programs such as the JOBS training program help to restore a healthier sense of self. VICKIE DARLING, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), CITC JOBS, ANCHORAGE, spoke against HB 409. She testified in favor of the JOBS Program suggesting that greater education is the answer for the success of welfare recipients. SANDRA NEWMAN, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, testified in opposition to the proposed legislation. Currently, participating in the JOBS Program, she discussed the success which she and her family have achieved. Ms. Newman agreed that education is the way out of poverty. ANGELA SALERNO, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS, ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition to HB 409. She indicated that there are provisions within the legislation which the Association supports although they do not support the workfare program. Ms. Salerno pointed out that lack of skills keep many welfare recipients from working. The JOBS program currently is successful, whereas, the workfare program would be costly to establish. To date, the JOBS Program has not been fully funded. Currently, it is serving twenty percent of the registered requests whereas, due to insufficient funding, the federally funded portion serves only two percent of the population needing that assistance. LOUISE CHARLES, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), FAIRBANKS, testified in opposition to the proposed legislation noting that village people do not have the opportunity for work because there are no jobs in those areas. She emphasized that cuts as proposed in the legislation would hit rural Alaskans the hardest. REBECCA RUFFNER, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), ARIZONA, spoke in support of the Healthy Family Program amendment as proposed by Representative Brown, pointing out that the program would encourage ways to build family strength and family self sufficiency. Ms. Ruffner shared the successful endeavors of that program in other states. VIRGINIA ALLEN, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), HEALTHY FAMILIES, ANCHORAGE, spoke in opposition to HB 409. She reiterated facts as presented by Ms. Ruffner in regard to the Healthy Families Program. 3 (Tape Change, HFC 94-68, Side 2). EDWARD DEAUX, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), COORDINATOR, HEALTHY START PROGRAM, SOUTH CENTRAL, ANCHORAGE, testified in support of Representative Brown's amendment which would establish a Healthy Families Program. He suggested that the JOBS Program and the Healthy Families Program could be consolidated for greater efficiency. BARBARA BENNETT, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), CHAIR, HOUSING AND HOMELESS COALITION, ANCHORAGE, strongly opposed HB 409 as it would decrease funds to the poorest of the State. She added that it would not be acceptable to institute an additional program "on the backs of the poor" specifically those on Adult Public Assistance. NATALIE KNOX, (TESTIFIED VIA TELECONFERENCE), CATHOLIC SOCIAL SERVICES, ANCHORAGE, explained that cutting funds from APA and AFDC dependents will have a long range detrimental impact on families and their emotional and physical safety. KAREN PEARSER, SECTION CHIEF, MATERNAL CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SERVICES, provided the Committee with a handout Healthy Families American/Healthy Families Alaska which provided costs associated with the proposed amendment. [Copy on file]. The Healthy Families Program is a completely voluntary program, paraprofessional based, home visitation program that seeks to address the needs of the child within the context of the family, recognizing the adults in the family as primary decision makers. The objective of the program is to prevent child abuse and neglect, assist families and communities in identifying needs, and helping families receive the health and social services which they need to improve family functioning and health status. Ms. Pearser acknowledged that costs will vary by region, education experience levels of personnel hired and actual attrition rates. It is expected that the evaluation costs will be covered by federal MCH dollars provided to the Department of Health and Social Services for systems development work. The funding formula assumes that the projects will be provided by local community agencies with funding via competitive grants and contracts. Ms. Pearser advised that there is interest on the federal level to make these grants available. Currently, there are fund sources available from private foundations and business corporations. 4 SHARON REBAR, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CATHOLIC COMMUNITY SERVICES, JUNEAU, provided the Committee with a copy of her testimony. [Copy on file]. She spoke in support of the Healthy Families program stating that the program is simple, family oriented and cost effective. Research provided from projects operated in Hawaii and Arizona have demonstrated success rates including reduced child abuse and neglect, AFDC dependency, foster care, juvenile crime and expensive medical treatment. Ms. Rebar urged the Committee's consideration to incorporate the program. SHERRIE GOLL, ALASKA WOMEN'S LOBBY, JUNEAU, stated that the Lobby would not support any part of HB 409. She urged the Committee to eliminate the proposed rateable reductions to the Adult Public Assistance Program. She stressed that APA recipients would never benefit from the programs recommended for those on the AFDC program. Ms. Goll advised that the propositions recommended in Section 5 would most likely be part of the National Welfare Reform package. She questioned spending the proposed funds for a demonstration project "workfare" which will impact only a few persons in the State, when in a years time every person in the State will be able to share in those increased earnings through federal participation. Ms. Goll stated that the Women's Lobby does not object to the workfare program or people being placed in unpaid positions. Although, she noted the program would not help to create greater self sufficiency for welfare participants. The only obvious benefit would be for taxpayers to feel better about people who receive welfare benefits because they would be working off their stipends. Ms. Goll added that studies have indicated that the workfare program was not designed for people with children under six years of age. She advised that the JOBS program is currently successful and urged the Committee to reconsider the proposed legislation. Ms. Goll concluded, by summarizing the thoughts of the Women's Lobby regarding the budget crisis and solutions to address it. 1. Increasing taxes. 2. Placing a longevity bonus on a needs basis. 3. Capping the Permanent Fund Dividend. HB 409 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.