Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/19/1996 01:35 PM CRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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 Program 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 people. 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 legislation. 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 system. 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.