Legislature(1995 - 1996)
03/13/1995 10:10 AM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE Anchorage Legislative Information Office March 13, 1995 10:10 a.m. MEMBERS PRESENT Senator Lyda Green, Chairman Senator Loren Leman, Vice-Chairman Senator Johnny Ellis (via teleconference) Senator Judy Salo (via teleconference) OTHERS PRESENT Senator Randy Phillips MEMBERS ABSENT Senator Mike Miller COMMITTEE CALENDAR SENATE BILL NO. 98 "An Act making changes related to the aid to families with dependent children program, the Medicaid program, the general relief assistance program, and the adult public assistance program; directing the Department of Health and Social Services to apply to the federal government for waivers to implement the changes where necessary; relating to eligibility for permanent fund dividends of certain individuals who receive state assistance, to notice requirements applicable to the dividend program; and providing for an effective date." PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION SB 98 - See Health, Education & Social Services minutes dated 3/8/95 and 3/10/95. WITNESS REGISTER Leonard Fabich, Teacher Russian Mission, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed welfare as the largest barrier to education. He read a letter from Julie Fitzcowski. Nancy Caughell 808 W. Bragaw #4 Anchorage, Alaska 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported welfare reform, but noted problems with SB 98. Reverend J. L. Smith 903 E. 13th Avenue Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed welfare and suggested returning parental rights to the family. Jack Cook, Assistant Pastor 3230 E. 41st Avenue Anchorage, Alaska POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed various welfare issues and did not want the permanent fund dividend to be taken from those who need it the most. Donna Scott, Director Tanana Chiefs Conference 122 1st Avenue Fairbanks, Alaska 99701 POSITION STATEMENT: Requested another teleconference with rural areas on-line. Suggested focusing on job creation. Jack Doyle, Executive Director Food Bank of Alaska 2121 Spar Avenue Anchorage, Alaska 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Mentioned the notion of working poor and suggested addressing this issue in a case by case manner. Holly Hollis P.O. Box 870675 Wasilla, Anchorage 99687 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed the employment situation with regards to welfare. Sashinka Evans College Student & Single Parent 1402 West 26 Avenue #B-12 Anchorage, Alaska 99503 POSITION STATEMENT: Related her own experience with welfare. Joanne Yaskell 200 W. 34th Box 337 Anchorage, Alaska 99503 POSITION STATEMENT: Suggested reviewing the criteria for emergency medical relief, health care reform and realizing that welfare reform involves dignity. Elden Sandvik 50 Year Alaskan Resident P.O. Box 878464 Wasilla, Alaska 99687 POSITION STATEMENT: Urged the committee to throw away SB 98. Hosanna Lahaie Lee 1902 Logan Anchorage, Alaska 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Related her personal experience with welfare. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, Executive Director Social Services in Mat-Su P.O. Box 878464 Wasilla, Alaska 99687 POSITION STATEMENT: Stated that SB 98 would cost more than it would save. Molly Kudrin P.O. Box 112174 Anchorage, Alaska 99511 POSITION STATEMENT: Related her personal experience with welfare. Mary Raymond P.O. Box 2335 Homer, Alaska 99603 POSITION STATEMENT: Suggested reviewing the regulations of welfare agencies in order to allow flexibility for individual cases. Kathleen Owens 420 W. 54th Avenue Anchorage, Alaska 99518 POSITION STATEMENT: Related her personal experience with welfare. Louise Charles, Coordinator Job Oppportunities & Base Work Program Tanana Chiefs Council 122 1st Avenue Fairbanks, Alaska 99701 POSITION STATEMENT: Suggested improving school attendance and educational programs. Discussed AFDC in relation to rural areas. Patrick Jamson P.O. Box 1994 Bethel, Alaska 99559 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SB 98. Virginia Charlie P.O. Box 2327 Bethely, Alaska 99559 POSITION STATEMENT: Inaudible testimony. Angela Mordan-Oxford 3741 Parsons #A Anchorage, Alaska 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Reviewed problems with various sections of SB 98. Debbie Bates 30 Year Alaskan Resident 8243 B Seaview Anchorage, Alaska 99502 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed her experiences and the permanent fund dividend as in SB 98. Minnie Fisher P.O. Box 873252 Wasilla, Alaska 99687 POSITION STATEMENT: Stated that the children would suffer under the permanent fund dividend. Elisabeth Kachlino Teacher 1650 E 27th Anchorage, Alaska 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Supported welfare reform, but addressed problems with the bill. Roy Brittain HC 60 Box 330-M Copper Center, Alaska 99573 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed education and the increased costs of health care. Carol Olson Educator 1032 W. 11th Avenue Anchorage, Alaska 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SB 98. Bonnie McGrew 3642 W 88 Apt 210 Anchorage, Alaska 99502 POSITION STATEMENT: Related her personal experience. Joy Roberts Full-time Student and Single Mother 331 S. Bragaw Anchorage, Alaska 99508 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed her situation, especially in regard to the permanent fund dividend. Tony Rauh 230 W. 14th 305 Anchorage, Alaska 99501 POSITION STATEMENT: Recounted his personal experience. Carolyn Laffon 1346 Old Seward Anchorage, Alaska 99515 POSITION STATEMENT: Suggested a transition program. Kendall Thomas, Public Health Nurse Alaska Women's Health Advocate 5350 Little Tree Street Anchorage, Alaska 99507 POSITION STATEMENT: Predicted that SB 98 would cost more than it would save. Angela Salerno, Executive Director National Association of Social Workers POSITION STATEMENT: Recommended placing SB 98 in a subcommittee. Jinan Phillips-Martini, Executive Director Kenai Peninsula Care Center 320 S. Spruce Kenai, Alaska 99611 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed SB 98. Terry Baines Sitka Tribe of Alaska 456 Katlian Sitka, Alaska 99835 POSITION STATEMENT: Addressed various areas of welfare reform Lynn Murphy 3701 Eureka Street 22C Anchorage, Alaska 99503 POSITION STATEMENT: Discussed her personal situation. Michael Totemoff Tatitlek, Alaska 99677 POSITION STATEMENT: Expressed the need to feed, cloth, and shelter the poor. Mary Place 2820 Fishhook Road Anchorage, Alaska 99654 POSITION STATEMENT: Opposed cutting benefits. ACTION NARRATIVE TAPE 95-14, SIDE A SHES - 3/13/95 SB 98 PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT OF 1995 CHAIRMAN GREEN called the work session of the Senate Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Committee to order at 10:10 a.m. She noted that at present there were two pages of amendments which would be presented at a later time. She informed those who had signed up to testify that there would be a five minute limit on testimony. As the work session progressed, the time allotted for each testimony would be reduced in order to here as many people as possible. LEONARD FABICH, from the Russian Mission, felt that his life experience made him highly qualified to comment on the current welfare situation. He recounted his past experiences that varied from trapping, commercial fishing, and teaching. In his opinion, as an educator, welfare had created the largest barrier to successful education. He stated that his effectiveness as a teacher had been effected by welfare. In the eight years he has taught in Russian Mission, Mr. Fabich had seen the attitude of the students deteriorate and the drop out rate escalate. He noted that it was not uncommon for students to drop out of school at age 16. He explained that much of this can be attributed to community role models; 50 percent of the village rely on some type of assistance. He implied that those who receive assistance serve as role models because they are the ones riding their snow machines during the day, watching movies all night and sleeping until noon. He informed everyone of the drop out statistics in the Russian Mission community. Reduction and loss of benefits to those who do not place value on education should be a priority. Mr. Fabich said that in order to hold on to the present students, teachers are decreasing the standards due to the overall poor work ethic of the students. He felt that if all children were encouraged by their parents to attend school and work towards good grades significant changes in the success of education would result. Mr. Fabich stated that the current welfare funding levels are too high. He explained that the current culture of the Yupik Eskimo is being lost. Number 167 CHAIRMAN GREEN suggested that Mr. Fabich provide the committee with any further comments in written testimony. She also suggested that if their are others who share Mr. Fabich's frustration, they too could send written testimony for the committee. LEONARD FABICH read a letter from another teacher in the bush, Julie Fitzcowski. She indicated that welfare should be reformed. Many village people who receive public assistance now view it as a right, not a helping hand which leads to an apathetic attitude. She suggested that students of welfare families should be required to attend school a certain number of days in order for the family to continue to receive assistance. There should also be a cut-off of welfare payments after a family reaches a preset limit in the size of the family. She also suggested that there should not be welfare payments for unmarried women under age 18 with children. She hoped that the welfare system would be reformed to promote work and accountability from its recipients. Mr. Sabich informed the committee that Mr. Fitzcowski felt that persons under the age of 25 who have not completed high school should be required to acquire a GED or job training in order to obtain benefits. Confirmation of student attendance and satisfactory progress should be required monthly in order to review eligibility of the children for benefits. Grants, bonuses, and training should be offered so that people can establish home businesses and leave the welfare system. CHAIRMAN GREEN noted that Senators Ellis and Salo were on-line in Juneau. She invited Cynthia Lafferty from Fairbanks to testify. Number 230 SENATOR SALO asked who was present in Anchorage. She also inquired as to the intentions for this meeting. CHAIRMAN GREEN stated that testimony would be taken. She noted that Senator Leman and Senator Randy Phillips were present in Anchorage. She clarified that this meeting would be a work session to allow testimony from the Anchorage LIO and the various teleconference sites. SENATOR SALO expressed concern in Chairman Green's calling the meeting a work session. She pointed out that she and Senator Ellis did not have copies of the amendments previously mentioned. CHAIRMAN GREEN specified that the amendments had not been prepared. After the meeting the amendments would be prepared and given to the committee members. She reiterated that the purpose of the meeting would be to take testimony. SENATOR ELLIS noted that he would have planned on attending the meeting in Anchorage if he had received notice from Senator Green's office in enough time to make arrangements. He requested that if a public hearing was scheduled in the future, the Minority be notified in order to make arrangements to fully participate in the hearing. He stated that the Minority did not receive notice in enough time to make arrangements to attend the hearing in Anchorage. Number 278 NANCY CAUGHELL, testifying in Anchorage, supported welfare reform, but indicated with regard to her personal experience the need to leave the hold harmless in the permanent fund dividend which SB 98 would eliminate. She recounted her personal experience with the welfare system and the barriers she had faced when attempting to leave the system. Discontinuing assistance in three to five years of people with long-term medical problems would hurt those people. She informed everyone of the barriers she faced when attempting to leave the welfare system. She addressed the issue of dead beat parents. CHAIRMAN GREEN stated that they are trying to promote workfare, jobs, and encouraging everyone to continue their education. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked if Ms. Caughell's three children were receiving child support. NANCY CAUGHELL said no and explained her situation with the children's father. She noted that the children did receive a permanent fund dividend. Number 358 REVEREND J. L. SMITH, testifying from Anchorage, pointed out that it is easy to plan, but implementing the plan is difficult. He suggested that the reality of possible cuts should be reviewed. He informed the committee that often unskilled low income employment does not pay enough, the benefits are better. He pointed out that taking everything from dead beat dads would create another problem; who would want to work when at the end of the week they do not receive anything. Another problem is related to job skills. He suggested that the education system be reconstructed to allow skill training in the last few years of a student's education. This would help those who cannot go to a college. He noted that this skill training had been used in Montgomery, Alabama. Reverend Smith stated that those who need the permanent fund dividend are those on welfare. Most people receive welfare because there are no jobs. He indicated that the reality of cuts would be the loss of jobs which would put more people on the streets and would probably lead to increases in crime. He expressed the need to review and attempt to solve the problems of the family unit. Often welfare is the best choice when jobs are low paying and/or do not offer benefits. He asserted that everyone should realize that we all made this problem and took away the parental rights of the family. He suggested that the state return the parental rights back to the family. Number 415 JACK COOK, Assistant Pastor at Greater Friendship Baptist Church, asked what would be done with these parents and children that will no longer receive public assistance. He discussed the need for families to assume their rightful place in society. Fathers should be accountable for their children and have the choice to participate in the raising of their children. Perhaps, there should be parental training. He suggested that men who are on the run due to back child support and face the garnishment of their wages should be given a moratorium in order to regain their respect. Mr. Cook addressed the exploitation of women. He suggested restoring the criminal penalties for rape to its former status. Abortion should only be legalized in the situation of the eminent death of the mother. He felt that if a women willingly has intercourse with a man, they should be equally responsible. A woman who has been violated should be able to name the person responsible without fear. Children should be accountable to their parents. He expressed the need for schools and government to support parental efforts to nurture and support their children's well being. In conclusion, Mr. Cook stated that the permanent fund dividend was granted to all Alaskans; it would be ridiculous to take the permanent fund dividend away from those who need it the most. SENATOR LEMAN asked both pastors who they felt should be primarily responsible for providing for needy people. In response, JACK COOK said that historically, the local community has been responsible for the welfare of those in the immediate area of the community. He explained that the structure had been set up so that when the welfare of the needy could not be fulfilled by the local community the next largest entity would take on that responsibility until it could not fulfill the needs and the next largest entity would become involved. This chain of responsibility and support would reach all the way to the state level if necessary and perhaps, the federal level. Mr. Cook felt that the needy family and the local community would know their needs the best. The discussion continued, REVEREND J. L. SMITH asserted that a lot more could be done to help with the issue of welfare. He explained that many churches do not have benevolence offerings while others offer as much support as possible. There is a varied notion within the church community as to the level of involvement the church should have. He pointed out that often the church is heavily involved in attacking social ills, but the community does not notice what takes place in the church. The church could do more. The community should be involved, they should recognize what the church has to offer. Number 510 SENATOR LEMAN felt that the pastors had been correct in pointing out that the welfare system had been changed. The system now places the federal government as the entity primarily responsible for the welfare of the needy instead of the local community. He felt that individuals should be the ones primarily responsible for the needy. He agreed with the pastors that the churches could do more and that individuals should do more to attack this problem. CHAIRMAN GREEN announced that in room 210, people could listen to the teleconference and if they wished to testify they would be called. She noted that testimony would now be limited to two to three minutes since more people had called in to testify. DONNA SCOTT, Director of the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks, informed everyone that she was involved in a coalition on employment and training and organization for the non-profit employment and training directories throughout the state. She also noted that she is a member of the Alaska Job Training Council. She explained that the Tanana Chiefs Conference administered the JOBS program for 14 villages in the Interior and eight villages in the Arctic Slope. She expressed concern about the process surrounding SB 98. Why are the rural areas not on-line; they too will be affected, not just the larger urban communities. She requested that the committee have another teleconference to accommodate the rural areas. Ms. Scott addressed the testimony of the first witness, Mr. Leonard Fabich. The reason people are on welfare in the rural areas is due to the lack of jobs. She emphasized that the discussion should be focused on job creation, economic development. Number 559 JACK DOYLE, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Alaska, explained that the Food Bank serves as an umbrella for over 200 other non-profit agencies throughout Alaska. SB 98 cuts welfare from six to 15 percent. He expressed concern with these cuts because the money seems to be going to people who need it. Where will the safety net be for those people after these cuts? He was concerned with the denial of the permanent fund dividend; that money is needed. Perhaps, the permanent fund dividend could be spread over 12 months instead of receiving all the money at once. He posed the question: how can welfare recipients make it with less assistance when they cannot make it now at the current level of assistance? Mr. Doyle discussed the phenomena of the working poor which is defined as both family members working at part-time positions which leave the family at below the poverty level. These people often work at lower paying jobs that do not offer medical insurance. He suggested that often medical bills become the priority and the children go to school hungry. Hungry children do not learn as well which could result in an uneducated population entering the labor market. He addressed the notion of training for existing jobs. Mr. Doyle commented that many state social service agencies are already financially stressed and additional clients will not be served if there is no safety net for these agencies. He pointed out that all these agencies look to the same outside sources of funding. Funding will become competitive with a limited amount of funding. He suggested that this issue should be dealt with in a case by case manner. TAPE 95-14, SIDE B Number 590 Mr. Doyle questioned the practicality of forcing single parent families to live with their parents. He urged the committee to move with caution on these issues. Who will provide the safety net for those who need assistance and who will provide the funding for that assistance? Number 587 HOLLY HOLLIS, testifying from Wasilla, expressed concern that the suggestions to employ these people did not also address making jobs available. There are many people who would like to work, but there may not be jobs available or they do not have the proper education. Furthermore, when these people are employed, they often face low rages that do not support the family. She pointed out that the welfare system was set up to be available to everyone. She suggested that a volunteer program could be utilized to address the issues of behavior and responsibility for these people. She expressed dismay that persons on welfare often face condescension from others. SASHINKA EVANS, a college student and single parent, said that she was not opposed to welfare reform, but without assistance she could not attend college. She posed the scenario that without assistance she would be working a minimum wage job and face enormous child care expenses; she would not be able to earn enough to live and pay for child care. Welfare reform should acknowledge those who are in her situation. There are people trying to do better for themselves. CHAIRMAN GREEN applauded Ms. Evans efforts to obtain a better education. JOANNE YASKELL read a portion of her story that ran in the Daily News last week. She was proud of the fact that she is a divorced mother of two who has provided for herself and her children. She is an active member of the community who owns her own business. She said that she never thought that she would be asking for support from the non-profit agencies for which she had once contracted her services. She explained that she became unable to obtain affordable health care insurance due to a pre-existing condition. Her children are covered under their father's health care insurance. She recounted her surgeries and their costs. With medical expenses in excess of $33,000, no income, and minimal savings, Ms. Yaskell applied for emergency medical assistance. She was not eligible for emergency medical assistance because her bank account of $542.84 was $42.84 more than allowable. She asserted that she no longer has even $42.00. She did not for how long she would be on a schedule with her children because she cannot provide for them. Number 500 Ms. Yaskell pointed out that the requirements for emergency medical relief were the same as those for AFDC. That does not make sense. She expressed confusion in the reasoning behind placing someone who needs emergency medical relief, a temporary situation, on a long- term program. After her article ran, she has received 15 callers in support of her, two callers felt that if she had stayed with her husband he would not be in this situation, and six callers told her that she did not play the game. Those six callers said that Ms. Yaskell should not have admitted to having a bank account or being a professional. She asserted that she had integrity and would not lie in order to receive assistance. In conclusion, Ms. Yaskell asked the committee to review the criteria for emergency medical relief, review health care reform, and remember that welfare reform is also about dignity as well as money. ELDEN SANDVIK, an Alaskan resident for over 50 years, expressed shame in regards to SB 98. He suggested that welfare and reform be defined. SB 98 is not welfare reform, it is an attack on the poor. To achieve welfare reform, the need for welfare must be eliminated. He expressed disbelief to the idea of taking the permanent dividend fund away from the blind, the elderly, the disabled, and poor children. He noted that he had worked as an eligibility technician for three years in a public assistance office and he had never seen the so called "welfare queen." He acknowledged that there is a welfare problem. Mr. Sandvik pointed out that the legislature could not survive on a $100 per diem which equals approximately $3,000 per month so they raised the per diem to equal approximately $4,500 per month. The per diem is in addition to their salary. In comparison to that situation, a welfare mother with one child is expected to live on $821 per month and now she would face a reduction. He remembered that someone had made the suggestion that welfare recipients need assistance in budgeting their money; perhaps, the legislators need assistance in budgeting their money as well. He pointed out past inconsistences in administrations. Welfare for the rich needs to be addressed. There has been $60 million worth of subsidized state loans to the those that have money. He urged the committee to throw this bill in the dump. Number 447 HOSANNA LAHAIE LEE, testifying from Anchorage, was appalled that a welfare recipient, herself, had to notify the media about this meeting and that testimony was now being limited to three minutes. Two or three minutes of testimony is not sufficient. She noted that she has a chronic illness with a probable secondary diagnosis. She said that she would give her life in order to be able to work again. She informed the committee that she receives social security disability and disability assistance. After reporting that she received $65 per month, she lost her Medicare because that is $32 per month more than is allowable. Ms. Lee pointed out that most of the legislators do not have family members on assistance and implied that they cannot know about the situation. She inquired as to who the legislators were helping. She addressed a successful pilot program in Alaska. She challenged the committee to have more of these meetings. The truth regarding the availability of funds, jobs, child care, and skills training should be revealed. She explained that she had applied for a program and while applying she met a man who was applying as well. This man had children. She wanted to give this man the job and intended to do so. She recounted various stories of welfare recipients. She asserted that having the funds to focus on people's self-esteem is critical. She concluded by recommending the consolidation of services with individual's in the community being mentors. CHAIRMAN GREEN requested a copy of Ms. Lee's testimony in order to put it in the packet. An indiscernible discussion ensued between the senators and Ms. Lee. Number 351 In response to the senators, Ms. Lee explained that after sitting in welfare offices and talking to individuals there, she had discovered that people coming to Alaska did want to work. Those same people cited child care as a problem. She pointed out the need for a comprehensive review to stop the shame; help people help themselves. CHAIRMAN GREEN said that the work fair portion of the bill attempts to address what Ms. Lee spoke of. HOSANNA LEE emphasized that the rules that penalizing people like herself should be changed. She explained the shame she feels in receiving welfare. She charged the committee to help everyone to become employed and increase their self-esteem. PAMELA LUTGEN-SANDVIK, testifying from Mat-Su, noted that Section 28 and the increase in Medicaid coverage are positive aspects of SB 98. The remainder of the bill poses a major punishment to the poor, disabled, elderly, and the blind. She pointed out that the explanation of SB 98 states that the bill attempts to provide the opportunity and the incentive to become self sufficient. That specifies the problem with cutting welfare, nothing is offered in return for cutting welfare. She explained that there are approximately 1,500 to 2,000 AFDC families in her community, there are only 18 or 19 jobs in the paper. There is no work for these people. Ms. Lutgen-Sandvik, Executive Director of Social Services, informed the committee that there are no jobs to give the people she sees in her agency. She mentioned that a clerk position received 21 applicants, some of which have college degrees. She expressed dislike of the permanent dividend portion of SB 98. She questioned if the working parent who barely makes it now would still receive their permanent fund dividend. Ms. Lutgen-Sandvik pointed out that SB 98 places additional responsibilities on the Division of Public Assistance (DPA) such as alcohol and substance abuse screening, school attendance screening, mental and emotional support systems. DPA cannot keep up with the work they have now and when people quit the division does not fill the position. SB 98 would cost more money than it would save. Number 289 MOLLY KUDRIN, currently on welfare, said that she did not like being on welfare. The six to 15 percent cut wouls hurt those on welfare even more. She urged the committee not to take away the permanent fund dividend which she uses for the well-being of her children. She noted that she had worked for the federal government and after leaving that job she returned to school for computer technology. She is hoping that the state will hire her. She wants to help herself as well as having the state help her get off assistance. Ms. Kudrin asked Chairman Green if she would be willing to give up her permanent fund dividend. Everyone has the right to receive the permanent fund dividend. She recounted a hardship that she experienced during Christmas. She commented that she could help herself and was going to school and wanted to work. CHAIRMAN GREEN said that they wanted SB 98 to create more opportunities and flexibility in encouraging people to return to work. Number 213 MARY RAYMOND, testifying from Homer, reiterated the need to not punish people by taking away the permanent fund dividend. She reminded the committee that the welfare program often discourages people because as soon as people on assistance attempt to help themselves and they make a few dollars over the limit, they lose their benefits. There are other programs that could be cut such as the longevity bonus. She suggested reviewing the regulations of the welfare agencies so as to allow a flexibility for individual cases. She charged the legislative body to review manners in which to create employment. CHAIRMAN GREEN reiterated the need to allow flexibility of agency workers to use exceptions and waivers in certain cases. She announced that another statewide teleconference would be held on Saturday, March 25th in Juneau. The meeting would be properly noticed in the papers. She noted that anyone can call in. CHAIRMAN GREEN stated that she intended to remove the permanent fund dividend portion of SB 98. She explained that the permanent fund dividend is a Department of Revenue issue. This legislation attempts to help the Department of Health & Social Services better serve the needs of those needing assistance. The permanent fund dividend can better be handled in another forum. Number 149 SENATOR ELLIS noted for everyone that removing the permanent fund dividend portion of SB 98 should not be of great relief. Denial of the permanent fund dividend to those living in poverty is contained in another house and senate bill both of which are moving very quickly in the process towards becoming law. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS informed everyone that the senate bill was SB 37 of which he was prime sponsor. SB 37 is currently in Senate Finance. He pointed out that SB 37 exempts those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Adult Public Assistance (APA) which add up to approximately 8,000 people. Those who receive SSI or APA would receive their permanent fund dividend as well as their current assistance. He noted that all others receiving other types of assistance would not receive their dividend. SENATOR ELLIS clarified that the other 24,000 would include the poor children and their parents. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS replied that would be correct. SENATOR ELLIS asked Senator Randy Phillips if he knew the status of Representative Kott's bill. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS did not know the status of that bill. Senator Randy Phillips noted that he and Representative Kott had not coordinated their legislation. Number 116 KATHLEEN OWENS stated that she was currently a resident at Claire House. She emphasized that she needed AFDC now. She did not think it was fair to take assistance away from her. People on assistance are not lazy. She explained that she had graduated from high school and she attended Girl's State as well. She emphasized that everyone needs health care; Medicaid should remain. She explained that currently her doctor had ordered that she not work due to her high risk pregnancy. She recounted her bad experience with child care. Funding should not be cut from those, like herself, who are doing the best that they can. In response to one of the senators, Ms. Owens informed everyone she came with her husband to Alaska in order to work in Dutch Harbor. Ms. Owens discussed her history of abuse. She stated that the people at Claire House were wonderful and had helped her tremendously. TAPE 95-15, SIDE A Number 006 LOUISE CHARLES, Job Opportunities & Base Work Program Coordinator, Tanana Chiefs Conference, testifying from Fairbanks, informed the committee that she is originally from Southwest Alaska and is a Yupik Eskimo. She informed the committee that people use snow machines for subsistence food gathering activities. Ms. Charles thinks school attendance and educational programs should be improved to encourage students to strive for higher educational opportunities. Number 060 Ms. Charles reminded committee members that the cost of living is two to six times higher in rural Alaska, so decreasing AFDC would severely impact rural areas. There are also few employment opportunities if any in rural Alaska. She expressed the need to coordinate employment programs and local-hire programs. Ms. Charles thinks things are moving to quickly, and we need long-term goals. Number 090 PATRICK JAMSON, testifying from Bethel, opposed SB 98. He applauded encouraging AFDC recipients to seek jobs, but in rural Alaska, there are no jobs available. Number 129 VIRGINIA CHARLIE, testifying from Bethel, stated she works in the same office as Mr. Jamson. Due to unintelligible teleconferece transmission the remainder of Ms. Charlie's testimony is unclear. Number 139 ANGELA MORDAN-OXFORD, testifying from Anchorage, stated that Section 1 infers that people on public assistance have no desire to take personal responsibility. Section 2 penalizes children for decisions made by adults, and for circumstances over which they have no control. She felt that the permanent fund dividend provided basic needs not afforded by AFDC. Ms. Mordan-Oxford stated that Section 4 does not allow for rising rental payments in the Anchorage area. Section 10 does not have proper regulations. Section 16 does not allow for parents of handicapped children. A parent might be employable, but that does not mean they can afford to be employed. If they have a child with pre-existing conditions who would not be covered by their employer's health insurance they often cannot afford to work. Ms. Mordan-Oxford asks how "totally handicapped" would be defined. Number 175 Ms. Mordan-Oxford commented that the section addressing personal responsibility is slanderous. Ms. Mordan-Oxford related her personal experience with her handicapped child and the difficulties they have had. She also questioned dividing Anchorage in to four project areas and asked for an explanation on "uncompensated work in a project area." In response to Ms. Mordan-Oxford, CHAIRMAN GREEN replied SB 98 does not contain any language referring to group homes. MS. MORDAN- OXFORD declared that SB 98 does refer to group homes: it stipulates that teenage mothers to be in group homes, foster homes, or maternity homes. DEBBIE BATES, testifying from Anchorage, informed the committee she is a 30-year Alaska resident, and was in the work force for more than 15 years. Ms. Bates stated that she has two children, and it costs more than the amount she pays for rent to pay someone to raise her children for her while she goes to work. In order for her to pay for child care and still meet her minimum living expenses, she must make $14 per hour. She has a college degree, and still cannot find a job that pays enough to support her family. Ms. Bates remarked, regarding the cutting of permanent fund dividend to public assistance recipients, that the legislature is engineering punitive damages against recipients. The only other group excluded from receiving the permanent fund dividend are criminals. That is not fair. Ms. Bates expressed the need to teach people how to budget their money and to become self sufficient, not just have someone tell them to be self sufficient, without giving them the tools. Number 258 MINNIE FISHER, testifying from Mat-Su, testified that there needs to be welfare reform. There should be stricter field investigations on welfare recipients. We need in-state job training. Ms. Fisher thinks the children are the ones who would be hit hardest by the provision taking away permanent fund dividend. She asked Chairman Green to come with her when the chairman gets home to see how people spend their dividends. Number 290 ELISABETH A. KACHLINO, teacher, testifying from Anchorage, stated she is in favor of welfare reform: no system is perfect, no system will make everyone happy. However, she is present to speak on behalf of the students she has taught in the Anchorage School District. She expressed concern with the denial of the permanent fund dividend and the creation of classes of citizenship, the necessity of children to use Medicare and Medicaid to obtain necessary medical services, and the damage which would be done to family relationships when they face financial problems. She agreed that parents should be responsible, but this bill would penalize the children. The efforts of the legislature and congress are not reform; they would only further stratify social classes, and nothing in the proposed reform would assure parent responsibility. Responsibility can be neither enacted nor enforced. She suggested working toward assisting, not penalizing. Ms. Kachlino informed the committee that she already supplies her students with many things their families cannot afford. She predicted that there would be more family break-down if aid is cut further. Number 330 Ms. Kachlino asserted that the state should end everyone's free ride: the citizens of Alaska are not over-taxed. She stated her parents, who live in Pennsylvania, paid $3,000 dollars last year for school taxes alone. Pennsylvania does not give senior citizen tax breaks, either. Ms. Kachlino recommended re-implementing a $10 a year school tax which would go directly to the schools. Number 350 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Ms. Kachlino at what school she teaches. MS. KACHLINO said that she teaches at Muldoon Elementary. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Ms. Kachlino how parents spend their children's dividends. MS. KACHLINO noted that one family went to Hawaii. She thought that was frivolous, but that was a family decision; a decision everyone should have a right to make. Other families spend their dividends on medical, clothing, and housing needs. Number 359 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS stated the intent of the dividend program was to insure the permanent fund, and for recipients to purchase desired or needed services. Senator Phillips asserted that dividends were supposed to be used for the purchase of services people request of the government. MS. KACHLINO reminded Senator Phillips that the income tax was abolished because the state did not need the money when oil revenues became large. She said that is no longer the case, and Alaskans are not over-taxed. Ms. Kachlino stated she is willing to pay more taxes. Most people should be willing to pay. She recommends re-implementing school and income taxes. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS noted that the school tax would only generate about $3,000,000 or $4,000,000. MS. KACHLINO interjected, that is $3,000,000 or $4,000,000 we don't have right now. SENATOR ELLIS commented that it would be implemented at the 1969 level. Number 378 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS repeated that the intent of the dividend program was to be used for desired services. The new generation of kids receiving dividends think they can spend it any way they want. Senator Phillips expressed his belief that most dividends are spent on non-necessities. Number 392 MS. KACHLINO informed the committee that "Johnny", who already knows he is a "have not", will know so even more during the period of October - December when the dividend checks are distributed. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS reminded Ms. Kachlino that under current law, a child who does not receive a dividend can apply for missed dividends. Number 399 ROY BRITTAIN, testifying from Glennallen, opposed parts of SB 98. He commented that other things have contributed to the short-fall in the state treasury. During the surplus years, money was being spent by the state like a bunch of drunk sailors. The high fees charged by medical and health-care facilities and the spiraling cost of education have contributed to the problem. Mr. Brittain does not think the rising cost of education has improved education. He stated that for people earning minimum wage, almost any medical situation is beyond their ability to pay. He suggested removing the permanent fund dividend from state employees and legislators and other people receiving state funds. Those people are no better than the handicapped. Mr. Brittain also suggestes looking into fraud and pork-barreling. The most unfortunate people should be able to vote themselves a raise, just like the legislators do. If it's good enough for the legislators, it should be good enough for the rest of us. Number 425 CAROL OLSON, testifying from Anchorage, stated she is an Anchorage educator and has been in Alaska since 1969 and is aware of the history behind the dividend. She has no connection with welfare, other than some of her students being recipients. Ms. Olson objected to SB 98 and to the denial of permanent fund dividend to recipients of public aid. She objected to recipients being permanently taken off the welfare rolls at the end of five years, regardless of need. CHAIRMAN GREEN interjected that SB 98 would not do that. She stated that there is flexibility built in to the bill, and that judgement calls could be made. Number 445 MS OLSON found it ironic that legislators increased their per diem, but want to decrease welfare benefits by six to 15 percent. She hoped people would keep in mind the need to be their brothers and sisters keepers. Number 461 BONNIE MCGREW, testifying from Anchorage, stated she is on disability. Medicaid does not cover a lot of health needs and if the permanent fund dividend is denied, it will cause hardships. Ms. McGrew stated that her health problems had caused her to quit work because she was not able to get insurance. CHAIRMAN GREEN asked Ms. McGrew if she would be staying in contact with Senator Phillips. BONNIE MCGREW responded she was. Number 471 JOY ROBERTS, a full-time student at the University of Alaska and single mother informed the committee that she is on the chancellor's list. She is halfway through school. Ms. Roberts explained that she began receiving public assistance when she was pregnant with her youngest child, and her husband left her. Of her six children, four have special needs. Ms. Roberts emphasized that she had given to the welfare system when she was working, and she planed to do the same in the future. There are people out there who are trying. She plans to be off welfare in a couple of years when she receives her degree. She has paid for most of her education herself with her permanent fund. If the legislature wants to take away dividends from people whom they feel do not spend those dividends properly, they should take it away from everyone they feel do not spend it properly, not just single parents. That is discrimination; it is not right. Ms. Roberts stated she supports herself and her six children on $1,300 per month. When her husband left her, she could have gotten a full- time job, but with three children not in school, her day-care expenses would have been greater than her salary. Number 524 SENATOR LEMAN asked Ms. Roberts if she is receiving child support. JOY ROBERTS explained that she does receive child support which goes directly to public assistance. She does not receive it; it reimburses the system. Ms. Roberts informed the committee that the paperwork involved in receiving assistance is invasive. She is trying to work with the system, and she does not want anything more taken away from her. SENATOR LEMAN acknowledged the importance of Ms. Roberts' decision not to take the child support so she could go on welfare. BONNIE ROBERTS explained that child support was raised in the fall, for that reason receiving child support would prove more beneficial. However, that child support would have lasted only six months, until her oldest child turned 18. If Senator Leman had ever gone through the paperwork to receive public aid, he would realize that it would be easier not to receive the child support and remain on welfare rather than going through the welfare process again. She does not have time as a full-time student and a single parent of six children to jump through all the hoops. She does not know what it is like just to have an extra 15 minutes. CHAIRMAN GREEN thanked Ms. Roberts for pointing out that flaw in the system. Number 556 TONY RAUH, testifying from Anchorage, informed the committee he has a head injury. He and his wife are both disabled and both receive SSI and APA. Mr. Rauh reported that the State of Alaska has an insurance program for people who can't get regular health insurance, but the premiums are too high for individuals receiving disability. He wants to know if the state could give a price break on the insurance premium to people with disabilities. He also does not want the permanent fund dividend denied to people with disabilities. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Mr. Rauh if he was on SSI or APA. TONY RAUH clarified that he is on both. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS told Mr. Rauh that in that case, he would continue to receive SSI, APA, and a permanent fund dividend. TONY RAUH commented that Alaska is better than other states. TAPE 95-15, SIDE B Number 578 CAROLYN LAFFON pointed out that the people who are on welfare now need to be separated from those who are going to be on welfare in the future. She said there should be some transition program for people who are currently on welfare and a program for teaching the new rules. Number 551 CYNTHIA LAFFERTY, a mother on welfare with a special needs daughter, emphasized that she is doing everything possible to make her daughter a whole human being when she grows up however, right now she needs extra help and extra money. There is a difference between people who are trying to get themselves mentally together and those people who do nothing for themselves. KENDALL THOMAS, Public Health Nurse representing the Alaska Women's Health Advocate (AWHA), said they recognize the need for reform to the existing welfare system, but they do not support SB 98. SB 98 lacks the provisions to offer long-term sustaining solutions to assist the people of the state to provide for themselves and their families. Cutting benefits puts families in peril. Many of the families receiving benefits that will face cuts are single mothers with children. She predicted that SB 98 would cost the government more in the long-term than it could ever hope to save the state. AWHA supports reform that keeps the dignity of the family in tact, offers realistic solutions to getting off public assistance while supporting individuals and families to assume responsibility for their actions. Number 495 ANGELA SALERNO, Executive Director of the National Association of Social Workers, supported welfare reform and agreed with the objectives of SB 98. Some of the provisions are excellent, some are flawed, and some simply won't succeed in promoting the independence we are all looking for. The reduction of benefits in Section 7 will make families less able to care for their children which is the goal of the AFDC program. This bill calls for denial of interim public assistance as the first part of the appeals process. They would then be forced to repay benefits... Ms. Salerno supported Section 26 which regards treatment for drug abuse. She heartily supported Section 28. She supported Section 29 which establishes a workfare program; the JOBS program in this state functions very well. Alaska has an economy that cannot support everyone nor afford a living wage to everyone. The state does not spend five cents on skills training. She explained that anyone who needs job training in this state must go to JTPA whose funds are being cut at the federal level. More funding is needed for job training and we need more cheap management for people who they track into work. There needs to be a variety of services to ensure that people return to work and stay there. Ms. Salerno recommended that SB 98 be put into a subcommittee where it could be worked on without an emotionally charged atmosphere. She strongly supported having a task force to address the issue. She offered her services and the services of her organization. SENATOR LEMAN, referring to her comment about a task force, noted that the legislative process is a public process where everyone can have input. Ms. Salerno believed that cutting the budget for programs which are severely needed was possibly motivated by politics. SENATOR PHILLIPS agreed that the legislature is the proper forum for discussing this issue. Ms. Salerno did not want to discourage the process. She offered her services and emphasized the fact that welfare reform was a huge job which needed as much information as possible. Everyone needs to work together. JINAN PHILLIPS-MARTINI, Executive Director, Kenai Peninsula Care Center, opposed SB 98. She explained that they treat adolescents with emotional problems as well as work with families to resolve family conflicts. She said there are social problems and then there are problems with personal irresponsibility. The way to overcome poverty is to create quality affordable child care and health coverage, and good paying jobs. She commented that much legislation on this issue does not respect the job of parenting which is one of the most important, most difficult, and most time consuming of any job. Parenting is of greater value than going out into the work force and earning money. If parents are not allowed time with their kids, they cannot provide the structure and discipline their children need. She was concerned that the reforms try to punish the few abusers. The abusers are not the majority of people on welfare programs. Reform in this direction would create desperation and people who cannot make ends meet would resort to crime. Number 317 TERRY BAINES, Sitka, said he works for the Sitka Tribe of Alaska on a tribal management grant to the Indian Health Service. He also has two severely handicapped children who receive a significant amount of assistance from the state. It is important to offer incentives for citizens to become self sufficient; he agreed with people being personally responsible. He cited several issues that he felt were as important as the financial aspect of the welfare reform: subsistence culture, mental health, and alcoholism. They need to be addressed as a system. Budget cuts leave out enhanced economic development opportunities in rural areas. TERRY BAINES said that abuse of the welfare system has become a lifestyle for some people. Time is needed for families to transition from the system to self sufficiency. There should be the opportunity to develop some skills, education, and training to head in that direction. As abuse and fraud of the system are addressed, care should be taken in order to not penalize families and children for federal government lack of foresight. Number 272 LYNN MURPHY informed the committee that although she has a southern accent, she didn't move here from Mississippi because of Alaska's welfare program. She has three children and has been receiving public funds for three years. She said she now owns property and must pay taxes. Without the Permanent Fund, she cannot pay her taxes. Her children count on having new school clothes in October, because of the Permanent Fund. She said that she was not on welfare by choice. Number 227 MICHAEL TOTEMOFF asked them not to harm the elderly, the disabled, the poor, or the children. He asked that the poor be fed, clothed, and given shelter. Number 222 MARY PLACE, testifying in Anchorage, informed everyone that each time she tried to get off welfare the support system had not been there. She has tried to go to school for two and half years. There was no daycare and she was going through a divorce. She has had to stop going to school because she could not afford it. She opposed cutting benefits. At this point there was an indiscernible conversation between Ms. Place and Senator Green. The meeting was adjourned at 1:35 p.m.