Legislature(2001 - 2002)

04/17/2001 03:02 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SJR 21-EXTEND FEDERAL TANF GRANTS                                                                                             
[Contains discussion of HJR 24, the companion bill.]                                                                            
CHAIR DYSON  announced that the  next order of business  would be                                                               
CS FOR  SENATE JOINT  RESOLUTION NO.  21(HES), Urging  the United                                                               
States   Congress   to   extend  the   authorization   date   for                                                               
supplemental  block  grants to  the  State  of Alaska  under  the                                                               
Federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program.                                                                         
Number 1650                                                                                                                     
JOHN  MANLY, Staff  to Representative  John Harris,  Alaska State                                                               
Legislature,  came  forth  on behalf  of  Representative  Harris,                                                               
sponsor of HJR  21, to explain SJR  21.  He stated  that [SJR 21]                                                               
asks the federal government to  continue the supplemental funding                                                               
for the  TANF (Temporary Assistance  to Needy  Families) program,                                                               
which is  about $6.9  million or about  30 percent  of [Alaska's]                                                               
block  grant.   He remarked  that a  number of  states that  were                                                               
either  poor  or  growing  faster than  the  national  rate  were                                                               
allowed this.   He  noted that according  to the  census figures,                                                               
[Alaska] has grown  by 14 percent since 1990.   [The supplemental                                                               
funding] is  scheduled to  expire the  next federal  fiscal year,                                                               
and the  whole TANF  authorization program  expires a  year after                                                               
that.   He  explained that  this resolution  asks for  a one-year                                                               
extension  so that  when the  program  is reconsidered,  [Alaska]                                                               
will be funded up to that point.                                                                                                
MR. MANLY  explained that there are  a few changes in  the Senate                                                               
version  from the  House version  of the  resolution.   The House                                                               
version  had included  the  Head  Start program  in  the list  of                                                               
programs and  services that  TANF funds cover.   However,  in the                                                               
Senate version,  on page  2, line  10, that  has been  taken out.                                                               
The  Senate  version  also  added  the  President  and  the  U.S.                                                               
Secretary to be the designated recipients of the resolution.                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON asked  why the legislature needs to  be involved with                                                               
Number 1753                                                                                                                     
JIM   NORDLUND,   Director,   Division  of   Public   Assistance,                                                               
Department of  Health &  Social Services  (DHSS), came  forth and                                                               
stated that this is a  resolution to Congress encouraging them to                                                               
continue  the funding.    This  is using  the  "finesse" and  the                                                               
authority of the legislature to deliver that message.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE JOULE  asked, if  the legislature  did not  pass a                                                               
resolution, whether congress would [continue the funding].                                                                      
MR.  NORDLUND answered  that this  is  a formal  way of  bringing                                                               
attention to the  issue.  He noted that [the  resolution] will be                                                               
fairly well  received by  Congress.  There  have already  been 14                                                               
[U.S.] Senators who have written  letters to the President asking                                                               
for this  extended funding,  including Alaska's  Senator Stevens.                                                               
It  is  supported by  resolutions  from  the National  Governor's                                                               
Association,  and   from  the  American  Public   Human  Services                                                               
Association.   He stated  that there is  broad support  for this,                                                               
but  lending  the  voice  of   [Alaska's]  legislature  would  be                                                               
Number 1816                                                                                                                     
CHAIR  DYSON  stated  that he  thinks  Representative  Joule  was                                                               
asking if this is  the only way to make this  happen and that Mr.                                                               
Nordlund's response was, "No, but it  would be useful."  He asked                                                               
if the Knowles Administration has  any other way of notifying the                                                               
U.S. government of the desire to have this funding continue.                                                                    
MR. NORDLUND responded that [DHSS]  has been  working through the                                                               
Governor's office  and the congressional  delegation to  get this                                                               
[resolution] through.   He said it certainly would  be helpful if                                                               
the legislature  would lend  its voice  as well.   He  added that                                                               
this could happen without the passage [of the resolution].                                                                      
MR. NORDLUND, in reply to  a further question, explained that the                                                               
resolution  states  that "we"  have  committed  this funding  for                                                               
various programs.   If [Alaska]  receives that $7 million  cut to                                                               
the block  grant, then  "we" will  have to reach  out to  some of                                                               
those agencies  and figure out who  can no longer be  funded.  He                                                               
added that  [Alaska] is  facing a $14  million deficit  with TANF                                                               
funds  for FY  2003.   He said  getting the  supplemental funding                                                               
continued would plug a big hole in that deficit.                                                                                
CHAIR DYSON asked Mr. Nordlund  what the Senate's thinking was in                                                               
taking out Head Start.                                                                                                          
MR. NORDLUND  answered that it  was [DHSS's] request.   He stated                                                               
that [DHSS] is funding Head  Start right now; however, it doesn't                                                               
seem  proper.   [DHSS]  is  presently  under  an audit,  and  the                                                               
legislature should  not have  extended TANF  funding to  the Head                                                               
Start  program because  it  is  not an  allowable  use under  the                                                               
federal rights.                                                                                                                 
Number 1959                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  stated that it  would seem to her  that as                                                               
money policy  makers [legislators]  should be weighing  the costs                                                               
of all of these things,  making resolutions on federal funds, and                                                               
knowing what they are.                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  remarked that  block grants are  based on                                                               
the rolls of  the temporary assistance [programs].   He asked Mr.                                                               
Nordlund  if, since  [Alaska] has  gone  down in  the [number  of                                                               
people on  temporary assistance,  [this resolution] is  asking to                                                               
be held harmless for the amount [Alaska] has gone down.                                                                         
MR.  NORDLUND responded  that with  the way  the block  grant was                                                               
structured when welfare  reform passed, the deal  in Congress was                                                               
that the  entitlement status  for welfare  would end,  and states                                                               
would be given a  set amount of money.  The  states would have to                                                               
live with  that amount of money  if the welfare caseloads  go up;                                                               
if  the caseloads  go down,  the states  get to  keep the  money,                                                               
regardless of  the size of  the caseload.   He stated  that there                                                               
was one  provision whereby states  with high populations  and the                                                               
poorer states would get a 2.5  percent bump every year.  [Alaska]                                                               
has been getting  that "bump" every year, regardless  of what has                                                               
been happening  with the caseload.   Since the caseload  has been                                                               
going down, the  state has been able to keep  that difference and                                                               
use  that funding  for  other  purposes.   He  explained that  in                                                               
[Alaska] the  child care program  used to have about  $10 million                                                               
in general fund  (GF) money.  The federal TANF  dollars that have                                                               
been saved  have supplemented  the GF,  thereby helping  to close                                                               
the fiscal gap.                                                                                                                 
Number 2078                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL  asked if the  grant itself will  be based                                                               
on the reauthorization of what [Alaska's] caseload is.                                                                          
MR. NORDLUND answered  that "we" don't know that yet.   He stated                                                               
that this  is a huge  debate in Congress right  now.  There  is a                                                               
lot  of  pressure  within  Congress  to  say,  "Well,  since  the                                                               
caseload has  dropped in half,  you obviously don't need  as much                                                               
money  as we  guaranteed you  in '94."   But  states are  saying,                                                               
"Well, but  we are  using those funds  for very  legitimate other                                                               
purposes and are  actually running programs with  it. ... Pulling                                                               
back that funding level would mean defunding certain programs."                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL remarked  that  this is  probably why  he                                                               
won't  support  the  resolution,  because he  thinks  it  is  the                                                               
state's responsibility and not the  federal government's [to fund                                                               
these other programs].                                                                                                          
Number 2152                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  JOULE  made  a  motion  to  move  SJR  21  [CSSJR
21(HES)] from  committee with individual recommendations  and the                                                               
attached zero fiscal note.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL objected.                                                                                                
A  roll call  vote was  taken.   Representative Stevens,  Cissna,                                                               
Joule,  Wilson,   and  Dyson  voted   in  favor  of   moving  the                                                               
resolution.      Representative   Coghill   voted   against   it.                                                               
[Representative Kohring  was absent.]   Therefore,  CSSJR 21(HES)                                                               
moved  from  the  House Health,  Education  and  Social  Services                                                               
Standing Committee by a vote of 5-1.                                                                                            

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