Legislature(1993 - 1994)

03/15/1993 01:43 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  The next order  of business to  come before the Senate  HESS                 
  Committee  was SB 101  (ELIGIBILITY FOR  PUBLIC ASSISTANCE).                 
  CHAIRMAN RIEGER stated that  at the last meeting on  SB 101,                 
  the bill  was held  awaiting some  proposed amendments  from                 
  Senator  Ellis.  SENATOR ELLIS said  he has four amendments.                 
  He referred to the bill representing  seven cuts in a single                 
  year and said there is no  idea of what the combined affects                 
  will be on  the clients and  the state's services.   Senator                 
  Ellis said  seven cuts in a single  year seems like too much                 
  to him.  It would be much  wiser to phase the cuts in.  This                 
  year state  employees will get their cost of living increase                 
  as will as  others who are entitled to them.   Senator Ellis                 
  said there seems to be money  for less essential things such                 
  as elk transplants, custom cars, etc.                                        
                                                                               
  Senator Ellis moved that Amendment #1 be adopted.  Amendment                 
                                                                               
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            1993"                                                              
                                                                               
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            that began on  January 1,  1991, January 1,  1992,                 
  and       January 1, 1993"                                                   
                                                                               
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  He  explained that the  amendment denies the  cost of living                 
  increase but restores the current  payment levels meaning no                 
  rateable reduction.  SENATOR MILLER objected.                                
                                                                               
  SENATOR  DUNCAN  stated  he  would  support  Senator  Ellis'                 
  amendment although he doesn't want to impose any reductions.                 
                                                                               
  Number 429                                                                   
                                                                               
  A  roll  call vote  was  taken  on Amendment  #1.   Senators                 
  Rieger,  Sharp,  Leman,   and  Miller   voted  against   the                 
  amendment.   Senators Duncan, Ellis, and Salo voted in favor                 
  the amendment.  So the Amendment #1 failed to be adopted.                    
                                                                               
  SENATOR ELLIS moved that  Amendment #2 be adopted.   He said                 
  the  amendment  restores the  cost  of living  increase, but                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
  keeps the rateable reduction.  The check amounts will be cut                 
  $78 a month for a woman and her two children under AFDC, but                 
  would include the COLA.  Amendment #2 follows:                               
                                                                               
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  SENATOR LEMAN objected to the motion.                                        
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN RIEGER said he doesn't understand how you  can have                 
  a rateable  reduction  but still  keep  the cost  of  living                 
  increase.   He asked what it  will do to  this year's fiscal                 
  impact.     JAN   HANSEN,  Director,   Division  of   Public                 
  Assistance,  Department  of   Health  and  Social  Services,                 
  explained  that  the  AFDC  rateable  reduction  produces  a                 
  savings in FY  94 of $8.6 million.  To include the COLA, the                 
  amount would  be $2.1  million.   The impact  would be  that                 
  there would still  be the  $8.6 million  reduction, but  the                 
  $2.1 million of proposed reductions would be added back into                 
  the budget.   The impact would be  that grants would be  cut                 
  immediately by the  rateable reduction, but then part of the                 
  that would be  restored on  January 1, 1994,  when the  COLA                 
  would be granted.                                                            
                                                                               
  A roll call vote was taken  on the adoption of Amendment #2.                 
  Senators Rieger, Sharp, Leman, and  Miller voted against the                 
  amendment.  Senators Duncan, Ellis, and  Salo voted in favor                 
  of the amendment.  So the adoption of Amendment #2 failed.                   
                                                                               
                                                                               
  Number 490                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR  ELLIS  moved  that  Amendment #3  be  adopted.   He                 
  explained that the amendment restores  the COLA and proposes                 
  they take the rateable reduction back  to the 1992 level for                 
  AFDC and APA  instead of the 1991 level that  is proposed in                 
  the bill.  Amendment #3 follows:                                             
                                                                               
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  There was objection to the adoption of Amendment #3.                         
                                                                               
  MS.  HANSEN said  the amendment  restores the  COLA  at $2.1                 
  million  and  restores  approximately  $4  million  of   the                 
  rateable savings.                                                            
                                                                               
  A  roll  call vote  was  taken  on Amendment  #3.   Senators                 
  Rieger,  Sharp,   Leman,  and   Miller  voted  against   the                 
  amendment.  Senators Duncan, Ellis, and  Salo voted in favor                 
  of the amendment.  So Amendment #3 failed to be adopted.                     
                                                                               
  Number 533                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR  ELLIS  explained that  Amendment  #4  requires more                 
  notice than the department proposes to  give.  He said he is                 
  concerned  about  the  housing  market  in   his  community.                 
  Especially in  the smaller  communities as  it will  be very                 
  difficult for the  people who aren't  in Section 8  housing.                 
  He noted that there is a three year waiting list for Section                 
  8  housing.  Amendment #4 proposes a  90 day notice be given                 
  so  that  people   will  have  time  to  make  other  living                 
  arrangements, etc.  Senator Ellis moved that Amendment #4 be                 
  adopted.  Amendment #4 follows:                                              
                                                                               
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  bill                   section"                                              
                                                                               
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         "*  Sec.  9. NOTIFICATION  TO  RECIPIENTS.   The                      
       Department  of  Health and  Social  Services shall                      
       notify each household that is receiving assistance                      
       under AS  47.25.310  - 47.25.420  or  47.25.430  -                      
       47.25.615 for  the month  of June  1993, what  the                      
       changes  will be  for  the household's  assistance                      
       that will be caused by implementation of secs. 1 -                      
                                                                               
                                                                               
        7 of this Act.                                                         
         "Sec. 10. Sections 8 - 9 of this Act take effect                      
       immediately under AS 01.10.070(c).                                      
         "Sec. 11. Sections 1 -  7 of this Act take  effect 90                 
       days after  all households  covered by  sec. 9  of                      
       this  Act  have been  mailed  the notice  required                      
       under sec. 9  of this  Act.   The commissioner  of                      
       health and  social services shall  promptly notify                      
       the  revisor of statutes  of the day  by which all                      
       required notices  under sec.  9 of  this Act  were                      
       mailed."                                                                
                                                                               
  SENATOR MILLER objected to the adoption of Amendment #4.                     
                                                                               
  SENATOR  SALO  said she  thinks it  is  fair to  give people                 
  notice as it might  give people incentive to somehow  try to                 
  improve their living style.                                                  
                                                                               
  MS. HANSEN said  assuming that the changes would take effect                 
  October 1, which would be 90 days, then the reductions would                 
  be  25  percent less.   So  the  $8.6 million  AFDC rateable                 
  reduction would be about  $6.5 million.  The $4  million APA                 
  rateable  reduction  would be  about  $3 million,  but there                 
  would be a $1 lessening.  Ms. Hansen said  there wouldn't be                 
  a impact on the COLA because that doesn't kick in until July                 
  1, 1994.  She said  if Amendment #4 should pass  as drafted,                 
  there  is one  word that  creates  an even  more problematic                 
  change.    She   referred  to  section  9  of  the  proposed                 
  amendment.   It says that  the department shall  notify each                 
  household  that  is receiving  assistance  for the  month of                 
  June,  1993, as  to  what the  changes  will be.    The next                 
  section  says  it  will  take  effect after  all  households                 
  covered  have  been  mailed  the  notice.   Some  households                 
  technically will not receive a benefit for the month of June                 
  until perhaps the month  of September.  Ms. Hansen  said she                 
  hopes that  the department  isn't  backlogged  but, in  fact                 
  they could be.                                                               
                                                                               
  TAPE 93-24, SIDE B                                                           
  Number 001                                                                   
                                                                               
  Ms. Hansen  said it  could be  months before  the department                 
  knows all of the households that would qualify for the month                 
  of  June  because of  payments  going  back to  the  date of                 
  application.                                                                 
                                                                               
  SENATOR ELLIS  said he understands  Ms. Hansen's point.   He                 
  said he also understands that October is the lowest month in                 
  terms of the caseload.   He asked if it would  make sense to                 
  try and give notification  or coverage in terms of  families                 
  on assistance during the highest  month.  Senator Ellis said                 
  it seems like it would make sense to give out the notices as                 
  widely as possible.  Alaska's welfare population is not like                 
  most other states as  most people are off of  welfare within                 
                                                                               
                                                                               
  two  years.   We  don't  have  the  huge  long-term  welfare                 
  lifestyle caseload.   He said  it would seem  that we  would                 
  want to give the greatest amount of notice possible as there                 
  are people who come on  to welfare and there are  people who                 
  work in the  summers.  He said there is a seasonality of the                 
  caseload.                                                                    
                                                                               
  Ms. Hansen said  there are larger  caseloads in May or  June                 
  than  there is in October.   She said  there are hundreds of                 
  people  going  off of  welfare  each  month  and  there  are                 
  hundreds of people going on to welfare.                                      
                                                                               
  SENATOR  LEMAN  referred  to  Ms.  Hansen  saying  the  COLA                 
  wouldn't kick in until July 1, 1994, and asked if she  meant                 
  July 1, 1994  or if she meant  January 1, 1994.   Ms. Hansen                 
  said she meant January 1, 1994.                                              
                                                                               
  SENATOR  ELLIS asked  Ms. Hansen  if  she has  any suggested                 
  changes to make the bill more palatable.  He said  he thinks                 
  that the notice is  very important.  If June  is the highest                 
  month,  Senator  Ellis  said  he would  like  the  people to                 
  receive notice before they go do their summer fishing,  etc.                 
  He noted that  there are people  who don't check their  mail                 
  during the summer as they are at fish camp, etc.  Ms. Hansen                 
  said the key  would be that  the notification of  households                 
  who receive an  assistance check "in  the month of June"  as                 
  opposed  to "for the month of June" would allow notification                 
  of a large  number of  households and would  not create  the                 
  undue delay that she referenced earlier.                                     
                                                                               
  CHAIRMAN RIEGER referred to testimony given by Ms. Hansen at                 
  the previous meeting where she stated that the department is                 
  planning to notify people prior to the effective date of the                 
  act.  He said it would be hard to put something  in the bill                 
  regarding notice because the department  is planning to give                 
  notice  before  the bill  is signed  by  the governor.   Ms.                 
  Hansen said  the  intention  is to  provide  notice  to  the                 
  clients when the bill has passed the legislature.                            
                                                                               
  Number 058                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR DUNCAN referred  to line 3, Section  9, of Amendment                 
  "in  the  month."   CHAIRMAN RIEGER  asked  if there  was an                 
  objection  to the  amendment to  Amendment  #4.   Hearing no                 
  objection, the motion carried.                                               
                                                                               
  SENATOR  SHARP  referred  to  Amendment   #4  and  said  his                 
  understanding  is  that  any  reductions still  wouldn't  be                 
  effective  until  September  at the  earliest,  but probably                 
  October  1.   MS. HANSEN  referred to  households who  would                 
  receive a benefit in June and said if the final notification                 
  was sent to those  households by July 1, October  1 would be                 
  the earliest that the effective date could be implemented.                   
                                                                               
                                                                               
  SENATOR ELLIS  said over the  years he has  heard complaints                 
  about people receiving their checks late.  He asked if there                 
  is any liability if  a person receives their check  late and                 
  misses a payment for  their rent, etc.   Ms. Hansen said  in                 
  terms of a  fiscal liability,  there isn't a  penalty.   She                 
  said  there  is an  attempt  to  get checks  mailed  on time                 
  because the department is aware of  the impact it could have                 
  on someone.  There is not a financial penalty levied against                 
  the state if a check goes out  late.  Senator Ellis asked if                 
  the department  blames complaints on  the post office  or if                 
  they admit it when checks are mailed  late.  Ms. Hansen said                 
  the majority of payments that go to clients late are because                 
  the  clients  submitted their  monthly  report late  and the                 
  department  isn't  required to  process  their check  by the                 
  first of  the month.   She  noted that  currently there  are                 
  several hundreds of checks that go out late each month which                 
  are totally the responsibility and fault of the division due                 
  to under staffing.                                                           
                                                                               
  Senator Ellis asked if there will  be any assistance for the                 
  people whose checks  will be cut and they will  have to move                 
  out of their currently housing.  He  also asked if there are                 
  statistics  showing how  many AFDC  and APA  clients are  on                 
  Section 8 vouchers.   Ms.  Hansen said  the information  the                 
  department has is  from the  Alaska State Housing  Authority                 
  where  approximately  4,000  households, statewide,  are  on                 
  Section 8 housing.  They estimate that one-half of the 4,000                 
  are  on public  assistance.   Ms. Hansen  stated that  there                 
  aren't any programs to pick up the fiscal impact.                            
                                                                               
  There being  no further discussion  on Amendment #4,  a roll                 
  call vote  was taken.   Senators  Rieger, Sharp,  Leman, and                 
  Miller  voted  against  the  adoption   of  Amendment  #4.                   
  Senators Duncan, Ellis, and Salo voted in favor of Amendment                 
                                                                               
  SENATOR ELLIS said there is supposed to be approximately $17                 
  million of savings  if the bill is  passed.  He said  he has                 
  never agreed  that there  would be  a savings  to the  state                 
  because of  other repercussions.   It would only  take 1,700                 
  public  assistance  recipients,   funded  through  the  Jobs                 
  Program to transition from welfare to  work in the public or                 
  private  sector,  to  equal  what  is  being  done with  the                 
  reduction in benefits.   He said  he will continue to  point                 
  out  the  hypocrisy  of  the   legislature  not  making  the                 
  necessary  commitment to  the Jobs  Program in  transitional                 
  benefits.                                                                    
                                                                               
  Number 135                                                                   
                                                                               
  There being no  further discussion, SENATOR MILLER  moved to                 
  pass SB 101 out of the Senate HESS Committee with individual                 
  recommendations.                                                             
                                                                               
                                                                               
  MS. HANSEN indicated there is a small technical problem with                 
  the  bill  in  Section 2  in  which  the  wrong statute  was                 
  referenced.    It  is  located on  page  2,  line  12.   "AS                 
  47.24.320" should be "AS 47.25.320."                                         
                                                                               
  Senator Miller asked to  withdraw his motion to pass  SB 101                 
  out of committee.  CHAIRMAN RIEGER moved and asked unanimous                 
  consent  that  on page  2,  line  12, the  reference  to "AS                 
  47.25.320"  be  changed  to  "AS  47.25.320."    Hearing  no                 
  objection, the motion carried.                                               
                                                                               
  Number 154                                                                   
                                                                               
  SENATOR MILLER  moved to pass SB 101, as amended, out of the                 
  Senate  HESS  Committee  with   individual  recommendations.                 
  There was objection.  A roll  call vote was taken.  Senators                 
  Rieger, Sharp,  Leman,  and Miller  voted  in favor  of  the                 
  motion.   Senators Duncan, Ellis,  and Salo were against the                 
  motion.  So SB 101, as amended, was passed out of the Senate                 
  HESS Committee.                                                              

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