Legislature(2001 - 2002)

03/28/2001 01:58 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
          SJR 21-URGE EXTENSION OF FEDERAL TANF GRANTS                                                                      
                                                                                                                              
MR. JIM NORDLUND,  Director of the Division of  Public Assistance,                                                              
Department of  Health and Social  Services (DHSS),  stated support                                                              
for SJR 21. This resolution supports  continuation of supplemental                                                              
grants  through   the  state's  Temporary  Assistance   for  Needy                                                              
Families  (TANF) program,  established  with the  creation of  the                                                              
federal welfare reform law that passed  in 1996. That law replaced                                                              
open-ended  entitlements to  states for  the AFDC  program with  a                                                              
block grant  program for  states.  The  amount of the  block grant                                                              
was  based on  the amount  of money  each state  had received  for                                                              
their AFDC  programs in  FY 1994, amounting  to $63.6  million for                                                              
Alaska.   The federal law also  provided that relatively  poor and                                                              
rapidly  growing  states  would   receive  a  2.5  percent  annual                                                              
increase to their  block grants amounts.  Alaska  is considered to                                                              
be a high growth state.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NORDLUND  explained  that states  received  the  supplemental                                                              
increases  for four  years.  Alaska's  first block  grant in  1998                                                              
amounted to $68 million; that amount  has increased to $70 million                                                              
but it will decrease  to $63 million in October,  the start of the                                                              
federal fiscal year  [FY 02]. DHSS obligated $70  million and more                                                              
for cash assistance, child care and  other programs and  now faces                                                              
a $15 million  deficit.  Calculated into that deficit  is the $6.9                                                              
million that  will be lost from  federal sources. SJR  21 requests                                                              
Congress  to  continue  the supplemental  amount  at  the  current                                                              
year's level  for at least one  more year.  He  informed committee                                                              
members that  this approach has received  a great deal  of support                                                              
from the National Governors' Association,  the National Council of                                                              
State Legislatures, and other organizations.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN asked  if other state  legislatures have  passed                                                              
similar resolutions.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. NORDLUND nodded affirmatively.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRWOMAN GREEN asked if a copy  of the resolution should also be                                                              
sent to President Bush.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. NORDLUND said  he believes the omission of the  President as a                                                              
recipient was an oversight.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRWOMAN GREEN offered  to accept a conceptual  amendment to add                                                              
the  President of  the United  States  and the  U.S. Secretary  of                                                              
Health and  Human Services  to the  list of recipients  [Amendment                                                              
1].                                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  LEMAN  so  moved  and,  with  no  objection,  the  motion                                                              
carried.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRWOMAN GREEN  asked if anyone  expected to use the  TANF funds                                                              
when welfare reform was initiated.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. NORDLUND said  he does not believe any of  the states expected                                                              
welfare reform to be as successful  as it has been. Caseloads have                                                              
dropped by over 50 percent. In the  initial years, the block grant                                                              
balances  built up and  DHSS was  advised by  members of  Congress                                                              
that the state should spend those  funds. Caseloads had dropped so                                                              
quickly that  the states  had not had  sufficient time to  gear up                                                              
and use the funds  to build up programs.  Alaska  has built up its                                                              
programs and  is now  dependent on  that money.   He noted  SJR 21                                                              
asks for  a one-year extension  but the  whole TANF program  is up                                                              
for reauthorization by Congress.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1431                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRWOMAN GREEN  asked if the  Legislature will know  anything by                                                              
next session.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR.  NORDLUND   said  it  should   because  the  law  has   to  be                                                              
reauthorized by October.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN said she  questions whether  the state  is doing                                                              
things it shouldn't  be with this money.  She  said sometimes good                                                              
things  happen when  people are  forced to  find new  ways to  run                                                              
programs.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. NORDLUND  said the  TANF program  is in  the process  of being                                                              
audited  and  it is  possible  the  audit  will determine  that  a                                                              
program, similar to  the Head Start program, should  not be funded                                                              
with TANF  money. He  suggested amending SJR  21 by removing  "the                                                              
Head Start Program,"  on page 2, line 12, and  changing $6,900,000                                                              
to $6,887,800 on page 1 line 15 [Amendment  2}.  He explained that                                                              
$6,887,800 is the exact number, while  $6,900,000 was an estimate.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR DAVIS moved to adopt Amendment 2.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
There  being   no  objection,  CHAIRWOMAN  GREEN   announced  that                                                              
Amendment 2 was adopted.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR LEMAN moved  CSSJR 21(HES) from committee  with individual                                                              
recommendations  and  its  zero  fiscal  note.    There  being  no                                                              
objection, the motion carried.                                                                                                  

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