Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/19/1996 01:35 PM CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
         SENATE COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                         
                       February 19, 1996                                       
                           1:35 p.m.                                           
  MEMBERS PRESENT                                                              
 Senator John Torgerson, Chairman                                              
 Senator Fred Zharoff                                                          
 Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                         
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
 Senator Randy Phillips, Vice Chairman                                         
 Senator Tim Kelly                                                             
  COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                           
 SENATE BILL NO. 206                                                           
 "An Act relating to welfare reform by establishing the Alaska                 
 Family Independence Program; repealing the aid to families with               
 dependent children and job opportunity and basic skills programs;             
 relating to an exemption to Alaska Wage and Hour Act for certain              
 work activities of the Alaska Family Independence Program; relating           
 to the duty to support children of minor parents; relating to                 
 certain licenses and applications for a license for persons who are           
 not in substantial compliance with orders, judgments, or payment              
 schedules for child support; relating to an exemption to the state            
 procurement code for certain services for the general relief                  
 program and Alaska Family Independence Program; relating to                   
 eligibility for day care benefits administered by the Department of           
 Community and Regional Affairs; authorizing the Department of                 
 Health and Social Services to operate a public assistance program             
 consistent with the Alaska Family Independence Program under                  
 federal waivers and providing certain immunity from liability for             
 activities of that program; amending Alaska Rule of Civil Procedure           
 90.3; and providing for an effective date."                                   
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                             
 SB 206 - See Community & Regional Affairs minutes dated 1/31/96.              
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
 Jim Nordlund, Director                                                        
 Division of Public Assistance                                                 
 Department of Health & Social Services                                        
 P.O. Box 110640                                                               
 Juneau, AK 99811-0640                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Offered information on SB 206                          
 Curtis Lomas                                                                  
 Welfare Reform Program                                                        
 Division of Public Assistance                                                 
 Department of Health & Social Services                                        
 P.O. Box 110640                                                               
 Juneau, AK 99811-0640                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Offered information on SB 206                          
 Kristen Bomengen, Assistant Attorney General                                  
 Human Services Section                                                        
 Department of Law                                                             
 P.O. Box 110300                                                               
 Juneau, AK 99811-0300                                                         
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Explained amendment to SB 206                          
 Randy Black                                                                   
 Alaska Food Coalition                                                         
 2121 Spar Ave                                                                 
 Anchorage, AK 99501                                                           
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Responded to questions on SB 206                       
 George Hierontmus, Director                                                   
 Beans Cafe                                                                    
 P.O. Box 100940                                                               
 Anchorage, AK 99510                                                           
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Responded to questions on SB 206                       
 Edward Thomas, President                                                      
 Tlingit-Haida Central Council                                                 
 320 W. Willoughby Ave., #300                                                  
 Juneau, AK 99801                                                              
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Spoke to welfare reform                                
 Don Shircel, Director of Family Services                                      
 Tanana Chiefs Conference                                                      
 122 1st Ave., Suite 600                                                       
 Fairbanks, AK 99701                                                           
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Reviewed Tribal Community Collaboration                
 Myron Naneng, President                                                       
 Association of Village Council Presidents                                     
 P.O. Box 219                                                                  
 Bethel, AK 99559                                                              
  POSITION STATEMENT:   Supports developing welfare reform plan                
  ACTION NARRATIVE                                                             
  TAPE 96-8, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
                     SB 206 WELFARE REFORM                                    
  CHAIRMAN TORGERSON  called the Senate Community & Regional Affairs           
 Committee meeting to order at 1:35 p.m.  He noted Senator Phillips            
 and Senator Kelly were absent due to their inability to return to             
 Juneau because of inclement weather.                                          
  SENATOR TORGERSON  brought SB 206 before the committee, noting that          
 representatives from the Department of Health & Social Services               
 were present to respond to questions raised at previous hearings on           
 the legislation.  He said testimony would also be taken concerning            
 the application of the welfare reform as it pertains to Native                
 communities or Native organizations, as well as local governments.            
 Number 031                                                                    
  CURT LOMAS , Division of Public Assistance, Department of Health &           
 Social Services, directed attention to and explained a chart he had           
 provided to the committee relating to sections of the bill that               
 would require waivers in the absence of federal welfare reform,               
 changes in state law, implementation of state regulations, etc.               
 Mr. Lomas also reviewed a document which explains the fast-track              
 approval process and identifies the provisions in SB 206 which fit            
 the parameters for fast-track approval.                                       
 Number 190                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  pointed out the areas the state can implement             
 without a federal waiver are food coalition grants, pregnancy                 
 prevention grants, non-perm trainee state job classes, Wage/Hour              
 Act amendment, child support changes, general relief contracted,              
 expand AHRIC responsibility, day care assistance amendment and                
 transition regulation authority.  He concluded there are not a lot            
 of changes that can be done without the federal waiver.                       
  JIM NORDLUND , Director, Division of Public Assistance, Department           
 of Health & Social Services, in response to questions relating to             
 food banks in the state and the food coalition, directed attention            
 to a list of soup kitchens and other programs in the state that               
 provide for nutritional needs of low income Alaskans.                         
 Number 230                                                                    
  RANDY BLACK , representing the Alaska Food Coalition, explained the          
 coalition is a group of Alaskans that formed to try to make a                 
 difference in the food nutritional issues facing the state.  They             
 believe it is vital for them to be able to more clearly define the            
 food problems in Alaska and the challenge of food distribution in             
 the state.  The coalition's vision is to strengthen the private               
 sector through a public/private partnership to make sure food                 
 distribution and the way that food is provided to Alaskans is fair            
 and equitable.  The group will also be developing some                        
 recommendations on how it can further develop this partnership.               
 Mr. Black also represents the Food Bank Network, which provides               
 food to approximately 200 agencies that directly distribute the               
 food to needy persons through regional distribution centers in                
 Nome, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kenai and Anchorage.  Sixty-five of the              
 200 agencies are located in Anchorage.                                        
 Responding to questions from Senator Zharoff, Mr. Black explained             
 the food distribution process through the various food banks                  
 located in the state.                                                         
 Number 310                                                                    
  JIM NORDLUND  directed attention to an amendment redrafted by the            
 department, which relates to the powers of municipal governments to           
 contract part of welfare program services that are envisioned in              
 the future.  The original amendment was more restrictive and the              
 redraft contains more expansive language.                                     
    KRISTEN BOMENGREN , Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law,         
 explained the amendment adds to the general powers of all                     
 municipalities.  Instead of addressing the boroughs specifically,             
 it now applies in a broader sense to all municipalities.  It is               
 added to the general powers provision, and, while generally applied           
 to all municipalities, it is limited specifically to state public             
 assistance programs.  The intent of the amendment is to make it               
 completely clear the municipalities may exercise that option.                 
 Number 345                                                                    
    SENATOR ZHAROFF  asked how many programs there are in the state            
 similar to Beans Cafe in Anchorage and their locations.                       
  GEORGE HIERONTMUS , Director, Beans Cafe, Anchorage, responded that          
 if he was referring to "soup kitchens," the only ones he is aware             
 of is the Glory Hole in Juneau, although it gives out food boxes              
 and Beans Cafe does not, and another one located in Fairbanks.                
 Number 390                                                                    
  JIM NORDLUND , addressing a question relating to how the state and           
 Alaska Native organizations can operate comparable family                     
 assistance programs without the state contributing general fund               
 money to the Alaska Native programs, said the simple answer is they           
 can't.  He said it is impossible to envision them operating                   
 comparable programs without the state's share going to Native                 
 organizations.  The block grant the department expects to receive             
 from the federal government is based on the amount of money                   
 received by the state in FY 94, which paid for the provision of the           
 program to both Natives and non-Natives in the state.  The ideal              
 way for this to happen is once the money is appropriated to the               
 department, they would make grants to those nonprofits that would             
 be serving a Native population instead of a separate appropriation            
 for Native organizations.                                                     
 Number 450                                                                    
  EDWARD THOMAS , President, Tlingit-Haida Central Council, said his           
 interest in welfare reform dates back several years, having served            
 on the Knowles transition welfare reform team, as well as working             
 with Senator Stevens on an Alaska-specific amendment which                    
 amplifies the need to go through the regional nonprofits.                     
 Mr. Thomas said needs of many of our Alaska Natives are severe, and           
 the problems that the people must deal with on a daily basis often            
 are tied to the absence of a solid economy in the villages.  The              
 dependency on welfare comes partially, if not entirely, from the              
 absence of opportunities for people to go forward and deal with the           
 needs of their families.  Prior to contact with non-Natives, his              
 people have historically provided for themselves living off the               
 land.  They are in transition from a subsistence to a cash economy            
 and there are many pressures on the subsistence lifestyle of his              
 Mr. Thomas believes an important issue that needs to be addressed             
 by the state is that of awarding construction contracts in the                
 villages.  The majority of the time, when there are contracts for             
 water and sewer installations in remote villages, approximately 90            
 percent of the work force is brought in from the outstide.  Once a            
 project is completed and the work force leaves, people have to be             
 brought in to maintain those particular facilities because local              
 people were not trained during the construction phase.  He                    
 suggested contracting laws should be reformed as well to provide              
 that 80 to 90 percent of the people at the local level must be                
 hired on all projects.                                                        
 Mr. Thomas explained that the Tlingit-Haida Central Council is a              
 regional tribe, and they are a little different than some of the              
 other nonprofits in that they are federally recognized.  He pointed           
 out that in 1987, the council got slightly over $4.4 million in               
 programs for their region, and, by 1994, they have increased that             
 up to a little over $9 million.  He also pointed out that even                
 though their programs have grown substantially, their                         
 administrative dollars have remained somewhat flat.                           
 Mr. Thomas related that Alaska Natives made up about 35 percent of            
 the state's AFDC caseload in 1995, and he suggested that as there             
 is movement towards some sort of cooperation between the regional             
 nonprofits or the particular tribes that are capable of doing their           
 own programs, it is important to keep in mind the numbers of people           
 they jointly service.                                                         
 Tlingit-Haida has been writing proposals to try to find some                  
 additional dollars from federal sources and foundations to help               
 them set up training programs.  Also, they have entered into                  
 cooperative agreements amongst the federal agencies that deal with            
 either the Jobs Programs, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and any               
 other agency under a 477 consolidation block grant.  It is their              
 hope that by working with state programs, they can also minimize              
 the duplication while providing the proper assistance to many more            
 people who are on welfare. He stressed that the state match would             
 be a necessary component for a successful program.                            
 Mr. Thomas said if no system is set up, his organization is willing           
 to work with the state on exchanging information on welfare reform.           
 Tlingit Haida has already set up a compatible data base, and they             
 could share information on a very direct basis so there is no                 
 duplication of programs.                                                      
  TAPE 96-8, SIDE B                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
 Mr. Thomas pointed out that contract support is a very important              
 component to contracting or privatizing any of these programs, and            
 it is no different with Native nonprofits.  If they do not collect            
 adequate contract support, they end up with a shortfall and it then           
 becomes very difficult to manage the programs.  His tribe has three           
 different contract rates:  an on-site rate at 31 percent; an off-             
 site rate at 17 percent; and a flow-thru rate at 8 percent.                   
 Number 022                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  asked Mr. Thomas if he would elaborate on the             
 background of the decision that took out working cooperative                  
 agreements with each individual recognized village corporation and            
 changed it to a regional corporation.  Also, he asked if he would             
 explain the interaction between a regional corporation and the                
 village corporations.                                                         
  MR. THOMAS  explained there are 12 regions, and it is very different         
 in each region.  Tlingit-Haida's region is about two-thirds the               
 size of California and they have an arrangement whereby they manage           
 the Jobs program and the Federal Department of Labor programs under           
 one contract for the entire region.  They then set up cooperative             
 agreements with other village or community-based management units             
 that are federally recognized as tribes.  However, their BIA                  
 program is a little different; they manage just a little over half            
 of the program.  Larger communities in their area, such as                    
 Ketchikan, Sitka, Kake, etc., go directly to the Bureau of Indian             
 Affairs and manage their own contracts.                                       
 Number 060                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  asked if taking on the welfare reform, as it is           
 laid out in the legislation, would double Tlingit-Haida's workload.           
  MR. THOMAS  responded that it would probably about double the                
 workload in one department, but not for the whole organization.               
  SENATOR TORGERSON  asked if he would address the relationship                
 between Natives and non-Natives in administering this program.                
  MR. THOMAS  said they already provide services to Natives and non-           
 Natives.  Programs such as their Village Public Safety Officer                
 program serve entire communities whose residents are both Natives             
 and non-Natives.  He said they would manage under a single system.            
 However, if they had some Indian set-aside dollars that had some              
 restrictions, they would abide by those restrictions, but there is            
 enough of an experience so that they would not have to set up                 
 entire new systems to deal with that situation.                               
 Number 100                                                                    
  SENATOR HOFFMAN  referred to Mr. Thomas' earlier discussion on               
 reforming contracting laws so that there is more local hire on                
 projects in remote villages, and he pointed out that has been tried           
 on several occasions, but it is has always been ruled                         
 unconstitutional.  Another problem is that most of the employment             
 is seasonal.  The whole thrust of welfare reform is try to get                
 people off of welfare and to save dollars at the state and federal            
 levels, but the problem that he sees for most of the Native                   
 communities is that jobs in rural Alaska are really limited.  He              
 suggested that particularly in rural areas of the state, we have to           
 look at what jobs are out there and then start training people for            
 those jobs.  However, he doesn't see where there is going to be               
 massive savings in welfare reform in rural areas of the state                 
 because of the lack of jobs.                                                  
  MR. THOMAS  agreed with Senator Hoffman's comments, and he said the          
 reason he brought it up is because he feels there needs to be                 
 effort put forth in other legislation.  He suggested that                     
 administratively the amount of people coming in from outside could            
 be suppressed if per diem and overtime were eliminated to outside             
 contractors and there were incentives for hiring locally.                     
 Number 205                                                                    
  SENATOR ZHAROFF  commented there are quite a few success stories             
 with what the Native corporations are doing, but he is finding more           
 and more that the frustration begins to develop because of the lack           
 of opportunity for people to get adequate employment so they can              
 get off of welfare.  He added it is a problem not only in the                 
 Native population.  He noted there are people that are in the                 
 second generation of welfare recipiency, and trying to change some            
 of that thinking is sometimes very difficult.                                 
  MR. THOMAS  agreed the opportunities for meaningful employment are           
 very minimal in so many of the communities, which is something that           
 welfare reform needs to keep in mind.  He said creating a work                
 ethic is just as important as creating the job opportunity and we             
 need to be innovative in creating good ethics and good standards.             
 Number 300                                                                    
  DON SHIRCEL , Director of Family Services, Tanana Chiefs Conference          
 (TCC), testified from Fairbanks.  He said he was given the                    
 responsibility of drafting a welfare reform program plan to present           
 to the TCC leadership for their review, and SB 206 is the first               
 bill to afford tribes the opportunity to begin to put together more           
 detailed program plans because it is the only bill to date which              
 anticipates the key tribal elements of developing federal                     
 Over the past year TCC, along with the Alaska Federation of Natives           
 and Native nonprofits and tribes, has been working closely with the           
 Congressional delegation and the Clinton Administration to craft              
 state and federal welfare reform legislation, which will be more              
 responsive to the local needs of rural Alaskan communities in                 
 working to decrease the dependency created by the current welfare             
 Mr. Shircel  made reference to a draft of the Tribal Community                
 Collaboration Program (TCC program).  He said the goal of the TCC             
 program is to strengthen individuals, their families and their                
 communities by increasing their capacity to support each other                
 through meaningful work and to develop local resources and jobs               
 focused on decreasing dependency on cash assistance programs.  He             
 read into the record the draft plan which consists of two primary             
 components: temporary assistance and a Community Savings and                  
 Investment Fund.                                                              
  TAPE 96-9, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 120                                                                    
 In his closing comments, Mr. Shircel said the TCC program, or any             
 like it, needs only to exist until the economies of Alaska's                  
 villages can support enough meaningful jobs in which all able                 
 bodied people can work and earn a living for themselves, and                  
 properly feed, clothe, and shelter their families.  Until then, the           
 Tanana Chiefs Conference, in partnership with the state of Alaska             
 and the tribal communities of the Interior, intends to work                   
 together in helping people get employment.                                    
 Number 135                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  requested that Mr. Shircel forward a copy of the          
 draft TCC program to the committee so it can become part of the               
 committee packet on SB 206.                                                   
 Number 140                                                                    
  MYRON NANENG , President of the Association of Village Council               
 Presidents (AVCP) and Co-Chairman of the Alaska Federation of                 
 Natives Human Resources Committee, testified from Bethel.                     
 Mr. Naneng said the AFN Human Resources Committee is made up of               
 representative from each of the 12 regional nonprofits and these              
 regional nonprofits have had many years of experience administering           
 state and federal programs, including but not limited to BIA                  
 General Assistance, tribal compacts with federal agencies, and                
 contracts with both the federal and state governments.                        
 Mr. Naneng made reference to the Alaska Natives Commission report,            
 which was published in 1994.  He requested that the Executive                 
 Summary of the Alaska Natives Commission report be made part of the           
 committee record on SB 206, and then read into the record portions            
 of the document.                                                              
 In his closing remarks, Mr. Naneng said state and federal agencies            
 should do whatever they can to work closely with rural leaders to             
 develop welfare reform plans that work.  If the state truly wants             
 to reduce welfare and put rural Alaskans to work then attitudes               
 must change.  The legislature has a tremendous opportunity to                 
 impact the future of welfare in rural Alaska by work with the                 
 people of rural Alaska.                                                       
 Number 320                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  requested Mr. Naneng forward his testimony to the         
 committee so it can become part of the committee packet on the                
 legislation.  He then asked if he would briefly explain the                   
 relationship between the regional corporation and the 50 village              
 corporations that he represents.                                              
  MR. NANENG  said they work closely with the villages in                      
 administering many of their programs.  He pointed out that at the             
 present time, AVCP operates a general assistance program and they             
 do not duplicate any of funds that are being received by AFDC                 
 recipients or other public assistance recipients.  He also said               
 there has been discussion that instead of payments being paid                 
 automatically to welfare recipients, as is currently done, there be           
 a requirement that the recipient would have to turn in some kind of           
 time sheet or a work plan before receiving the welfare assistance.            
  SENATOR TORGERSON  commented there may be some conflict with federal         
 law, as well as state law, in requiring work before receiving that            
 type of benefit.                                                              
  MR. NANENG  also related their contract rates for administering              
 programs are:  on-site rate, 39 percent; off-site rate, 15 percent;           
 and flow-thru rate, 5.7 percent.                                              
 Number 424                                                                    
  SENATOR ZHAROFF  asked how many people AVCP employs to administer            
 their programs.                                                               
  MR. NANENG  responded they currently have a total work force of              
 approximately 125 people, with 42 people located in Bethel and the            
 rest of located out in the villages.                                          
  SENATOR TORGERSON  asked if they took on administering the welfare           
 program as authorized in SB 206, what impact would that have on               
 their work force.                                                             
  MR. NANENG  responded it would keep their people who now work in the         
 villages busy, and there would be better control of what goes on in           
 the villages.  Also, he believes the cost of the services for the             
 program will go down over time as people get more experienced in              
 the work they are doing.                                                      
 Number 462                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  asked Don Shircel of the Tanana Chiefs Conference         
 if he was in support of SB 206.                                               
  DON SHIRCEL  acknowledged that he is, and he believes the tribal             
 provisions included in SB 206 would afford the Tanana Chiefs and              
 other Native regional nonprofits throughout the state the vehicle             
 to do just the kinds of things that Mr. Thomas, Mr. Naneng and                
 others are trying to do to bring more local control and more local            
 responsibility.  He also related the following rates for                      
 administrative costs in running programs:  on-site indirect rate,             
 34 percent; off-site indirect rate, 14 percent; and pass-thru rate,           
 5 percent.                                                                    
 Number 490                                                                    
  SENATOR TORGERSON  thanked the witnesses for their testimony and             
 stated it was his intent to draft some amendments to the bill that            
 would be considered at the next hearing on the legislation.                   
 There being no further business to come before the committee, the             
 meeting was adjourned at 3:32 p.m.                                            

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