Legislature(2011 - 2012)SENATE FINANCE 532

02/07/2011 09:00 AM FINANCE


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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
+ SB 3 FUNDING FOR SCHOOL MEALS TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ HB 16 EXTEND SENIOR BENEFITS PAYMENT PROGRAM TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
                 SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE                                                                                       
                     February 7, 2011                                                                                           
                         9:00 a.m.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:00:16 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CALL TO ORDER                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman   called  the  Senate   Finance  Committee                                                                    
meeting to order at 9:00 a.m.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Senator Lyman Hoffman, Co-Chair                                                                                                 
Senator Bert Stedman, Co-Chair                                                                                                  
Senator Lesil McGuire, Vice-Chair                                                                                               
Senator Johnny Ellis                                                                                                            
Senator Dennis Egan                                                                                                             
Senator Donny Olson                                                                                                             
Senator Joe Thomas                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
None                                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
ALSO PRESENT                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Senator Cathy  Giessel; Representative Mike  Hawker; Christy                                                                    
Harvey,  Staff,  Senator Wielechowski;  Elizabeth  Nudelman,                                                                    
Director, School Finance, Department  of Education and Early                                                                    
Development; Robert Eason,  Coordinator Food Services, North                                                                    
Slope  School District;  Carl  Rose,  Association of  Alaska                                                                    
School Boards;  William J. Streur,  Commissioner, Department                                                                    
of Health  and Social  Services; Denise  Daniello, Executive                                                                    
Director,   Alaska  Commission   on  Aging;   Marie  Darlin,                                                                    
Coordinator, AARP Task Force.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
PRESENT VIA TELECONFERENCE                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Gary Baldwin, Bethel;  Amy Rouse, Director of  the AK School                                                                    
Nutrition   Association;  Dolores   Farrell,  Self,   Sitka;                                                                    
Therese  Ashton, Principal,  Wrangell  Public School;  Carol                                                                    
Comeau,  Superintendent,  Anchorage   School  District;  Bob                                                                    
Crumley,  Superintendent,   Chugach  School   District;  Ron                                                                    
Kreher,  Director, Public  Assistance, Department  of Health                                                                    
and Social Services.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SUMMARY                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SB 3      FUNDING FOR SCHOOL MEALS                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
          SB 3 was HEARD and HELD in Committee for further                                                                      
          consideration.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
HB 16     EXTEND SENIOR BENEFITS PAYMENT PROGRAM                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
          HB 16 was HEARD and HELD in Committee for further                                                                     
          consideration.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senate Bill NO. 3                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act providing for funding for school lunch and                                                                         
     breakfast."                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
9:00:39 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHRISTY HARVEY, STAFF, SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI, introduced the                                                                     
PowerPoint presentation "Funding for Alaska's School                                                                            
Meals,"(copy on file).                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey detailed Slide 2: "Three Goals for the School                                                                        
Meals Bill,"                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     · More schools serving meals                                                                                               
     · More kids in each school fed                                                                                             
     · More nutritious meals served                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey quoted the statistic, "one out of every eight                                                                        
Alaska families struggles to put enough food on the table                                                                       
each year."                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey addressed Slide 5: "Hunger in Alaska 2010,"                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     · 74,000 Alaskans seek food assistance each year.                                                                          
     · 43 percent of households visiting food pantries in                                                                       
        Alaska have a child under the age of 18.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey discussed Slide 6: "Students In Need Not Being                                                                       
Reached,"                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     51,000 Alaskan Children are eligible for reduced or                                                                        
     free lunch.                                                                                                                
     However:                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
        · Six school districts do not offer breakfast or                                                                        
          lunch.                                                                                                                
        · 15 percent of schools that do participate in the                                                                      
          school lunch program do not offer breakfast.                                                                          
        · Overall, 60 percent of lower-income kids are not                                                                      
          being reached by the school meals program.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:03:56 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey discussed the data  on Slide 7: "Alaska in Bottom                                                                    
10  for Participation."  She pointed  out that  Alaska ranks                                                                    
ninth from the bottom of  all 50 states in the participation                                                                    
of  low-income children  in the  school  meal programs.  She                                                                    
added  that many  children  have access  to  real food  only                                                                    
through the school meal program.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Harvey   continued  with  Slide  10:   "Alaskan  School                                                                    
Breakfasts  Served FY  09-10."  She  explained that  Alaskan                                                                    
schools  served approximately  3.6  million breakfasts  last                                                                    
fiscal year. The federal reimbursement  has not kept up with                                                                    
the  needs  of  the  schools  since  the  inception  of  the                                                                    
program.  Many  schools  are therefore  dipping  into  their                                                                    
operating budgets.  The average cost to  prepare a breakfast                                                                    
or lunch does  not match the federal  reimbursement rates as                                                                    
exhibited  on  Slide  11: "Current  Breakfast  Reimbursement                                                                    
Rates" and Slide 13: "Current Lunch Reimbursement Rates."                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Harvey explained  Slide 14:  "The Need."  She explained                                                                    
that  despite  federal  subsidies, Alaska  schools  fall  $9                                                                    
million  short. She  hoped that  the proposed  program would                                                                    
prevent  the  schools  from  dipping  into  their  operating                                                                    
budgets. She understood that the  legislature is tasked with                                                                    
stewarding  Alaska's money.  She wished  to ensure  that the                                                                    
investment was a wise one for the state.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:06:05 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey  discussed Slide 16:  "Investing in  School Meals                                                                    
Provides a "Two-Fer" in returns."  She explained that short-                                                                    
term  returns  on  the investment  include  better  academic                                                                    
performance, better behavior,  better attendance, and better                                                                    
health.  The long-term  returns  include better  attendance,                                                                    
which equal  lower dropout rates. Lower  dropout rates equal                                                                    
lower  prison  populations,  higher graduation  rates  equal                                                                    
higher incomes,  and lower obesity rates  equal lower health                                                                    
care costs.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:07:17 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Harvey mentioned  that she  had a  bibliography of  the                                                                    
studies quoted  in her  presentation, for  those interested.                                                                    
She  mentioned that  various studies  have  shown that  when                                                                    
kids are  fed they  perform better on  comprehensive testing                                                                    
with better attention, memory and verbal fluency.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey discussed  Slides 22 and 23:  "Better Behavior in                                                                    
School."                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     · Researcher    noted   a   significant   decrease   in                                                                    
        behavioral "oppositional scores" for students eating                                                                    
        school  breakfast.  "Oppositional   scores"  measure                                                                    
        whether or  not  students are  likely  to break  the                                                                    
        rules, have problems with authority or  are quick to                                                                    
        anger than most individuals in their age groups.                                                                        
     · Researchers found low-income students who ate meals                                                                      
        at school were less likely to be hyperactive and had                                                                    
        fewer behavioral  or attention  problems than  their                                                                    
        hungry peers.                                                                                                           
     · Researchers conclude that classroom breakfast works                                                                      
        and that  a pilot  program in  New York  resulted in                                                                    
        decreased  hunger   and   improvements  in   factors                                                                    
        critical to student  learning such as  tardiness and                                                                    
        disciplinary referral rates.                                                                                            
     · Increased    school   breakfast    participation   is                                                                    
        associated  with   fewer  emotional   or  behavioral                                                                    
        problems.   Teacher   at   school   that   increased                                                                    
        participation in  their  school  breakfast  programs                                                                    
        reported a positive change in student behavior (60%)                                                                    
       and improved in student attentiveness (63%).                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:09:24 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey discussed Slide 25: "Better Attendance."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     · Higher Rates Of Attendance                                                                                               
          o Studies show that universal school breakfast                                                                        
             program participation is associated with higher                                                                    
             rates of attendance and declines in tardiness.                                                                     
     · Lower Rates Of Tardiness                                                                                                 
          o Schools with increased participation in school                                                                      
             breakfast  programs  had  their  proportion  of                                                                    
             children  chronically  tardy  decreased  by  67                                                                    
             percent.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey addressed Slides 27 and 28: "Better Health."                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
     · Lower Obesity Rates                                                                                                      
          o Girls from "food insecure" households are                                                                           
             significantly less likely to  become overweight                                                                    
             (68 percent)  if  they  participate  in  school                                                                    
             lunch and breakfast programs.                                                                                      
     · More Physically Active                                                                                                   
          o Students who ate breakfast daily were more                                                                          
             likely  to  participate  in  physical  activity                                                                    
             three or  more  times  a  week  than  breakfast                                                                    
             skippers.                                                                                                          
     · Alaskan Obesity                                                                                                          
          o 25.4 percent of Alaskans are currently                                                                              
             considered "obese."                                                                                                
     · The High Cost of Obesity                                                                                                 
          o Recent studies project that, if our national                                                                        
             weight  problem  continues  as   it  has  been,                                                                    
             obesity will cost the USA about $344 billion in                                                                    
             medical-related expenses  by  2018,  eating  up                                                                    
             about 21 percent of health-care spending.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:11:00 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey  discussed the  proposal of  an increase  of $.35                                                                    
for breakfast  and $.15  for lunch.  She provided  Slide 31:                                                                    
"Examples   of  Support,"   exhibiting  all   of  the   many                                                                    
supporters of the proposal.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:11:48 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Ms. Harvey discussed Slide 33: "The Bottom Line,"                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     Senate Bill 3 is a solid investment in Alaska's                                                                            
     future, providing both short-term and long-term                                                                            
     payoffs for Alaska's students.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     We spend a great deal of money on education in Alaska.                                                                     
     This comparatively small investment will help our                                                                          
     students reap the maximum benefits from our schools.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     By setting our kids up for success now, we may be able                                                                     
     to avoid costly problems in the future.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:12:15 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Thomas asked  to know  the threshold  for both  the                                                                    
reduced and  supplemented rates.  Ms. Harvey  responded that                                                                    
the rate for a household size  of 2 is $33 thousand per year                                                                    
for reduced lunch and $23  thousand per year for free lunch.                                                                    
She quoted $51  thousand for the reduced price  for a family                                                                    
of 4  and $35  thousand for free  meals. She  explained that                                                                    
the figures  exhibit the federal poverty  level adjusted for                                                                    
Alaska.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson expressed  dismay  at  the figures  presented                                                                    
which display  children's lack of  access to food.  He asked                                                                    
about  the distribution  of  these  children throughout  the                                                                    
state. Ms. Harvey responded that  rural areas suffer greatly                                                                    
as  the  shipping  is  quite pricey.  She  pointed  out  one                                                                    
component of the bill which  adjusts the numbers through the                                                                    
district  cost  factors  to  address   the  needs  of  rural                                                                    
schools.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson commented  on the  sponsor statement  and the                                                                    
proposed increases. He  opined that an increase  of 15 cents                                                                    
in rural areas  was insignificant when compared  to the high                                                                    
cost  of transportation.  Ms.  Harvey  agreed and  responded                                                                    
that she  wanted to  add the necessary  funds for  the rural                                                                    
areas.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:16:11 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator   Thomas    wondered   if   the    federal   maximum                                                                    
reimbursement  was in  literal  form.  Ms. Harvey  explained                                                                    
that the quoted  figure is the maximum amount  based on need                                                                    
and reimbursed by  the federal government. She  added that a                                                                    
$9 million gap  exists between what is required  and what is                                                                    
provided by the federal government.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
9:17:24 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ELIZABETH NUDELMAN, DIRECTOR,  SCHOOL FINANCE, DEPARTMENT OF                                                                    
EDUCATION  AND EARLY  DEVELOPMENT,  explained the  different                                                                    
components  of the  fiscal plan  regarding the  school lunch                                                                    
and breakfast  program. She  noted that  the bill  creates a                                                                    
new state program to provide  supplemental state funding for                                                                    
the  existing  breakfast   and  lunch  programs.  Currently,                                                                    
districts  receive  approximately  $32  to  $36  million  in                                                                    
federal  funding for  the school  lunch  program. The  total                                                                    
expenditures  are approximately  $58  million. The  required                                                                    
federal match  for the  program is  $492 thousand,  which is                                                                    
met from  the $9  million transferred from  school operating                                                                    
funds. The  bill would not  increase the number  of students                                                                    
participating,  but would  provide approximately  $2 million                                                                    
to school districts to use  for breakfast and lunch programs                                                                    
or  to  offset the  $9  million  transferred from  operating                                                                    
funds.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Ms.  Nudelman discussed  the fiscal  note. Page  one of  the                                                                    
fiscal  note shows  $2.1 million  in 2012,  $2.3 million  in                                                                    
2013,  $2.3 million  in  2014, $2.4  million  in 2015,  $2.5                                                                    
million in 2016  and $2.6 million in 2017.  She continued to                                                                    
detail the fiscal note.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:21:44 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  asked about the  fiscal impact of  the six                                                                    
schools that  do not offer  the lunch or  breakfast program.                                                                    
Ms. Nudelman  responded that the  six schools  currently not                                                                    
offering  the program  are small  schools and  would require                                                                    
necessary   equipment.  She   listed  the   various  schools                                                                    
totaling 490 students.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman  asked if  the  schools  that offer  lunch                                                                    
alone  might begin  to offer  breakfast  if the  legislation                                                                    
passes. Ms. Nudelman responded  that additional hurdles must                                                                    
be overcome  to provide  the addition of  breakfast programs                                                                    
for those schools currently without.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:23:43 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator McGuire stated that she  supports the bill sponsor's                                                                    
intention. She wondered about the  methods used to encourage                                                                    
new   interest  in   the  program   for   schools  not   yet                                                                    
participating.  She asked  about including  new children  by                                                                    
providing for a  state match. She asked  about the potential                                                                    
of increasing the programs  without additional students. She                                                                    
recommended that  state and agriculture  programs grow  as a                                                                    
result of  the program. She requested  creative alternatives                                                                    
regarding the food choices in the program.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman  requested  the  percentages  of  students                                                                    
involved in the program for the various school districts.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  asked about the  administration's position                                                                    
on the  bill. Ms. Nudelman answered  that the administration                                                                    
does not have a position on the bill.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
9:26:41 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson recalled  that the  presentation listed  that                                                                    
six districts  did not offer  either lunch or  breakfast. He                                                                    
assumed that the entire district  did not offer the program.                                                                    
Ms.  Nudelman clarified  that six  school  districts do  not                                                                    
offer  either   breakfast  or   lunch.  An   additional  ten                                                                    
districts do not participate in the breakfast program.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
9:27:56 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  pointed out the  new fiscal note  from the                                                                    
Department  of   Education  and  Early   Development  (DEED)                                                                    
reflecting a $2,143,000 appropriation  in FY 12. Funding for                                                                    
the program is not in the governor's budget.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
9:28:48 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
GARY   BALDWIN,  SUPERINTENDENT,   LOWER  KUSKOKWIM   SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT,  BETHEL (via  teleconference), discussed  the need                                                                    
for  Bethel to  have access  to the  program. Many  children                                                                    
would not eat any food until  lunch if not for the breakfast                                                                    
program.  Much  of  the  current  funding  is  intended  for                                                                    
instruction   purposes.   He    mentioned   his   district's                                                                    
comprehensive nutrition policies.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
9:32:12 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
AMY ROUSE,  DIRECTOR OF THE AK  SCHOOL NUTRITION ASSOCIATION                                                                    
(via   teleconference),   testified   in  support   of   the                                                                    
legislation.  She  pointed out  the  many  children who  are                                                                    
either homeless or in transition  in our district. Each day,                                                                    
many  children receive  their only  meal on  school grounds.                                                                    
The funds included  in SB 3 would help to  provide the meals                                                                    
that many children have come to expect.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:35:15 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DOLORES FARRELL, SELF,  SITKA (via teleconference) testified                                                                    
in support  of the  legislation. She applauded  the previous                                                                    
testimony. She  opined that information  regarding nutrition                                                                    
and  supplementation of  student nutritional  needs must  be                                                                    
offered  prior to  supplementation. She  supported education                                                                    
and the  preparation of foods  on site. She asked  about the                                                                    
hurdles  encountered  by  the  schools  wishing  to  provide                                                                    
breakfast  to  needy  children. She  proposed  a  method  of                                                                    
reaching   the   children   who  need   the   food   without                                                                    
compromising their self esteem.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
9:37:48 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
THERESE  ASHTON,  PRINCIPAL,  WRANGELL  PUBLIC  SCHOOL  (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified in  support of  the legislation.                                                                    
She  noted that  the  Wrangell  district superintendent  was                                                                    
responsible  for the  student breakfast  and lunch  program.                                                                    
She stated that 60 percent  of the school's students qualify                                                                    
for  free  or  reduced  prices. She  pointed  out  that  one                                                                    
complaint from students is that the portions are too small.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:40:38 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CAROL  COMEAU,  SUPERINTENDENT,  ANCHORAGE  SCHOOL  DISTRICT                                                                    
(via teleconference), echoed the  prior testimony. She noted                                                                    
that 41 percent of  the Anchorage School District's students                                                                    
qualify for free or reduced  lunch. She pointed out the need                                                                    
for additional  fruits and vegetables in  the meals provided                                                                    
to  the  students. She  opined  that  additional fruits  and                                                                    
vegetables  would  make the  meals  more  palatable for  the                                                                    
students. She added  that Anchorage has a  system where they                                                                    
are able  to provide occasional  funds out of  their general                                                                    
fund  to students  who do  not qualify  for free  or reduced                                                                    
lunch.  Students in  her district  are not  identified as  a                                                                    
free  or  reduced  lunch  recipient,  which  eliminates  the                                                                    
embarassment factor.                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
9:43:26 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
BOB  CRUMLEY, SUPERINTENDENT,  CHUGACH SCHOOL  DISTRICT (via                                                                    
teleconference),  testified in  support of  the legislation.                                                                    
He stated that his district  chose not to participate in the                                                                    
free and reduced lunch program.  The district has instead, a                                                                    
free breakfast program funded out  of their general fund. He                                                                    
stated that  the breakfast is sometimes  the only nutritious                                                                    
meal  received by  a  student  all day.  He  noted that  the                                                                    
program increases attendance.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
9:45:15 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT EASON, COORDINATOR FOOD  SERVICES, NORTH SLOPE SCHOOL                                                                    
DISTRICT,  testified  in  support  of  the  legislation.  He                                                                    
explained that the current program  is regulated well in his                                                                    
district.  He noted  that  reauthorization  will take  place                                                                    
July  1, 2012  that  will  increase the  cost  of the  lunch                                                                    
programs  because of  increased fruits  and vegetables.  The                                                                    
need for state support is thus increased.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:47:25 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CARL ROSE, ASSOCIATION OF ALASKA  SCHOOL BOARDS, stated that                                                                    
research  suggests that  hunger is  a large  distraction for                                                                    
students. He echoed the comments  made by the sponsor at the                                                                    
meeting's onset. He spoke in  support of the legislation. He                                                                    
mentioned  a   recent  article  from  the   Chicago  Tribune                                                                    
regarding a free and reduced lunch and breakfast program.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
9:50:46 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Olson  expressed concern regarding  the palatability                                                                    
of the meals provided. He  asked if the children were eating                                                                    
the meals  or throwing  them away.  Mr. Rose  responded that                                                                    
many  different situations  exist in  schools regarding  the                                                                    
nutrition  provided. He  mentioned fundraising  efforts such                                                                    
as  concession  stands that  might  be  in competition  with                                                                    
school  lunches.  He  felt  that  the  majority  of  options                                                                    
including  free   and  reduced  lunches   provide  palatable                                                                    
choices. He commented that some  of the school districts are                                                                    
unable  to  provide the  food  as  they lack  the  necessary                                                                    
facilities.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
9:52:27 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Thomas  asked about  the identification  of students                                                                    
regarding  fee or  reduced lunches.  Mr. Rose  answered that                                                                    
many   school  districts   are   aware   of  the   potential                                                                    
embarrassment  factor  and  remedy   it  in  an  appropriate                                                                    
manner.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
9:53:55 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman asked about the  35 percent of food that is                                                                    
rumored  to be  thrown away.  He  discussed the  need for  a                                                                    
Consumer Price Index (CPI) and  sunset date for the program.                                                                    
He asked about the bill's effective date.                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Senator  McGuire asked  about  the communities  that do  not                                                                    
offer  breakfast and  lunch. Ms.  Harvey offered  to provide                                                                    
answers to the committee.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SB  3   was  HEARD  and   HELD  in  Committee   for  further                                                                    
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
HOUSE BILL NO. 16                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     "An Act extending senior benefits."                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
9:57:42 AM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MIKE HAWKER  stated that  HB 16  extends the                                                                    
Alaska  senior benefits  payment program  for an  additional                                                                    
four years.  The program  was established  in 2007  and will                                                                    
sunset June 30, 2011  without affirmative action during this                                                                    
legislative session.  He stated  that 10,093  elder Alaskans                                                                    
currently benefit from the program.  The oldest recipient of                                                                    
the  benefits  is 105  years  old.  The established  program                                                                    
provides monthly cash assistance  to Alaska residents age 65                                                                    
or older whose household income  is less than 175 percent of                                                                    
the federal  poverty guideline for Alaska.  He explained the                                                                    
various tiers  of the program.  He stressed that HB  16 does                                                                    
not  alter  the  current  benefits; it  merely  extends  the                                                                    
program four years.  The program costs $20  million per year                                                                    
and  the legislation  is a  maintenance  commitment. If  the                                                                    
money   appropriated   by   the  legislature   were   deemed                                                                    
insufficient  to   meet  the  needs  of   the  program,  the                                                                    
Department  of   Health  and   Social  Services   (DHSS)  is                                                                    
authorized  in statute  to reduce  or eliminate  the benefit                                                                    
available  to  the  recipient  in order  to  meet  the  most                                                                    
pressing needs of the state.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
10:03:41 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative Hawker  referred to a  convincing handwritten                                                                    
constituent  letter (copy  on file).  He  believed that  the                                                                    
bill should pass out of committee.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
10:05:02 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator Thomas  referred to  the sectional  analysis stating                                                                    
that  the  department  may  reduce  or  eliminate  the  cash                                                                    
benefit    available   to    recipients    based   on    the                                                                    
appropriations. He  asked if the  benefits would  be reduced                                                                    
on a  prorated basis.  Representative Hawker  responded that                                                                    
regulations  regarding   potential  manifestations   of  the                                                                    
mentioned   section   have   not   yet   been   established.                                                                    
Historically,  ratable reductions  are implemented  as early                                                                    
as  possible  in a  fiscal  year,  eliminating the  need  to                                                                    
prorate.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  requested a department's  perspective, and                                                                    
remarked  that  he  did not  anticipate  any  shortfall.  He                                                                    
expressed interest only in a hypothetical answer.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
WILLIAM J.  STREUR, COMMISSIONER,  DEPARTMENT OF  HEALTH AND                                                                    
SOCIAL  SERVICES,   replied  that   he  would   provide  the                                                                    
information at a later time.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
10:08:38 AM                                                                                                                   
AT EASE                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
10:09:50 AM                                                                                                                   
RECONVENED                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Senator Thomas asked about the "see delayed repeal note."                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker referenced  the  Alaska statutes.  He                                                                    
noted the footnote  known as the "delayed  repeal," which is                                                                    
the four year sunset addressed in committee.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  asked if  the administration  supports the                                                                    
legislation.  Mr.  Streur  replied that  the  administration                                                                    
supports the extension.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  asked why there  are six  positions needed                                                                    
to extend  the program.  Commissioner Streur  responded that                                                                    
the  six  positions  are  a   continuation  of  the  current                                                                    
staffing  allocated to  the  program. Representative  Hawker                                                                    
reminded that  the program is an  eligibility based program,                                                                    
which  includes 10  thousand beneficiaries.  The eligibility                                                                    
is dynamic and the number  of employees is reflective of the                                                                    
amount of  work necessary  to manage the  eligibility status                                                                    
of the beneficiaries.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman asked  how seniors  are notified  that the                                                                    
program  exists.  Commissioner  Streur  responded  that  the                                                                    
program  is advertised  on the  state website  and in  local                                                                    
division  of public  assistance  offices.  He believed  that                                                                    
both rural and urban accesses are similar.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
10:14:05 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  asked about qualifying issues  for seniors                                                                    
in the  Pioneer Home. Mr.  Streur responded that  seniors in                                                                    
the Pioneer Home  are not eligible due  to the establishment                                                                    
of  the  Pioneer  Home  fee.   Since  the  majority  of  the                                                                    
residents in the  Pioneer Home are Medicaid  eligible, it is                                                                    
essential  to maximize  Medicaid. If  a resident  receives a                                                                    
subsidy,  the money  is  then used  to  offset the  Medicaid                                                                    
payment.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman  asked if seniors  in the Pioneer  Home who                                                                    
pay  their own  bills  are included.  He  asked about  those                                                                    
residents fortunate enough to have  the liquidity to pay the                                                                    
substantial bills  each month.  He wondered if  the Medicaid                                                                    
issue  was  impacted  for   those  individuals.  Mr.  Streur                                                                    
offered to provide future information.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair Stedman asked about those  residents of the Pioneer                                                                    
Home who are  without the additional funds  needed for small                                                                    
luxuries.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
10:16:30 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson  asked  if benefits  were  granted  to  those                                                                    
people living  out of  state. Mr.  Streur believed  that the                                                                    
checks were for residents only.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Olson asked  about  provisions regarding  transport                                                                    
out  of state  for  medical  reasons. Representative  Hawker                                                                    
stated  that beneficiaries  must  be  Alaskan residents.  He                                                                    
explained   that   eight    unidentified   recipients   were                                                                    
identified last  year for  leaving the  state and  the cases                                                                    
are currently in review.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker added  that  the program  statutorily                                                                    
provides for recovery provisions  for any benefits that were                                                                    
paid inappropriately as stated in AS 47.45.308.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Senator  Thomas asked  about electronic  advertising methods                                                                    
in regard to seniors and  low income seniors in rural areas.                                                                    
He   expressed  concern   regarding   the  distribution   of                                                                    
information.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
10:19:30 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Stedman discussed  the fiscal  note from  DHSS and                                                                    
the   addition  of   $1,968,000   in   general  funds.   The                                                                    
administration is aware of the  true cost of the program. He                                                                    
believed it  appropriate for the governor  to bring foreword                                                                    
a budget  amendment to fund  the item. He mentioned  the two                                                                    
page   spreadsheet  exhibiting   case   summaries  and   the                                                                    
expenditure forecast.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
RON KREHER,  ACTING DIRECTOR, PUBLIC  ASSISTANCE, DEPARTMENT                                                                    
OF HEALTH  AND SOCIAL SERVICES (via  teleconference) offered                                                                    
to respond to questions.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
10:21:32 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
DENISE  DANIELLO, EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR, ALASKA  COMMISSION ON                                                                    
AGING,  expressed support  for  the  legislation. She  noted                                                                    
that  the bill  provides funding  for basic  necessities for                                                                    
the  seniors  in  Alaska.  She  noted  that  the  commission                                                                    
supports  this   legislation  and  the  extension   for  the                                                                    
benefits  payment  program.  She stated  that  greater  than                                                                    
10,000 senior  citizens receive  benefits from  the program.                                                                    
She stated  that several areas  in the state,  including the                                                                    
North  Slope borough,  have  citizens  participating in  the                                                                    
program.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MARIE DARLIN,  COORDINATOR, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION  OF RETIRED                                                                    
PERSONS  (AARP)  TASK  FORCE,  emphasized  that  the  senior                                                                    
benefits  program allows  seniors to  remain in  Alaska. She                                                                    
spoke in support of the legislation.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
10:25:34 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Representative  Hawker  repeated   one  question  raised  by                                                                    
Senator  Olson  regarding  those senior  citizens  currently                                                                    
living  out of  state.  He explained  that  the question  is                                                                    
addressed  in the  existing statute,  Section 47.45.304.  He                                                                    
recognized  that the  situation exists  for certain  seniors                                                                    
and  did not  want the  limiting  factor to  lead to  denied                                                                    
access. He noted  that when a person leaves  the state, they                                                                    
lose  their benefits.  The exceptions  to that  rule include                                                                    
receiving medical treatment out  of state, the accompaniment                                                                    
of  an individual's  family member  while receiving  medical                                                                    
treatment  outside of  the state,  and the  ability for  the                                                                    
department to make exceptions on a case by case basis.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
10:28:27 AM                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
HB  16  was   HEARD  and  HELD  in   Committee  for  further                                                                    
consideration.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
ADJOURNMENT                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
The meeting was adjourned at 10:29 AM.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
SB 3 Explanation of Changes.docx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB 3 Sponsor Statement.docx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB3 Fact Sheet Need.docx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB3 Federal Payment Chart.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB3 District Cost Factors.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SB0003-1-8-013111-EED-Y.PDF SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
HB 16 Fact Sheet-DHSS.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Background-Related Statutes.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Sponsor Statement.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Support-AARP.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Support-Alaska Food Coalition.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Support Letter.doc SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 DPA SB Projections FN Back up 2-4-11 (2).xlsx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
NEW SB3-EED-TLS-2-4-11.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
SenFin Slide Show Funding For Alaska’s School Meals.pptx SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
SB 3
HB16 Support-Alaska Commission on Aging.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB16 Support-Public letters.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16
HB 16 Senate Committee Response.pdf SFIN 2/7/2011 9:00:00 AM
HB 16