Legislature(2001 - 2002)

03/28/2002 03:01 PM HES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 292-INCREASE CHILD CARE GRANTS                                                                                             
CHAIR  DYSON  announced  the  next   order  of  business,  SPONSOR                                                              
SUBSTITUTE  FOR HOUSE  BILL NO.  292,  "An Act  relating to  child                                                              
care grants; and providing for an effective date."                                                                              
[Representative Joe  Hayes, sponsor, explained  via teleconference                                                              
that  he would  listen in  while  his staff  person presented  the                                                              
bill to the committee.]                                                                                                         
Number 0715                                                                                                                     
MELINDA BRUNO,  Staff to  Representative  Joe Hayes, Alaska  State                                                              
Legislature,  presented  SSHB  292  on  behalf  of  Representative                                                              
Hayes, sponsor.   Calling  SSHB 292 a  simple but important  bill,                                                              
she explained  that current statute  calls for a child  care grant                                                              
to not  exceed $50.   Statute also calls  for [child  care] grants                                                              
to  be adjusted  on  a geographic  basis  by  the same  adjustment                                                              
factors used  for funding  school districts.   This statute  is AS                                                              
MS. BRUNO  noted that a geographic  adjustment is not  possible in                                                              
several communities with  a grant cap set at $50.   If the statute                                                              
were revised  to cap the  base rate at  $50, it would  provide the                                                              
opportunity,  given  the availability  of  funding  in any  fiscal                                                              
year, for  a rate  increase to  occur.   Therefore, SSHB  292 will                                                              
change the $50 cap  to a $50 maximum base rate.   Currently, child                                                              
care grants  are available  a program  that is  fully funded  with                                                              
federal dollars.  Therefore, it won't cost the state anything.                                                                  
MS. BRUNO  indicated federal funds  cannot be fully  utilized with                                                              
the cap in statute.   Alaska now receives a little  more than $3.7                                                              
million;  unless the  change  is  made to  a  maximum base,  these                                                              
funds will  not be fully utilized.   This will allow the  state to                                                              
adjust  for  the  geographical  cost  index  and  distribute  more                                                              
Number 0835                                                                                                                     
YVONNE  CHASE, Deputy  Commissioner of  Early Development,  Office                                                              
of   the  Commissioner,   Department   of   Education  and   Early                                                              
Development  (EED), testified  via  teleconference  in support  of                                                              
SSHB 292.   She explained that  the state-funded child  care grant                                                              
program  was  created in  1981  as  a small-business  subsidy  for                                                              
licensed  child care  providers,  with a  statutory cap  of $50  a                                                              
month   for   each  full-time-equivalent   child   attending   the                                                              
facility.   She offered  her belief  that the  original intent  of                                                              
the child  care grant  was to  ensure that  spaces were  available                                                              
for  children in  the  subsidy  program, since  language  required                                                              
participating   providers  to   have  a   certain  percentage   of                                                              
available  slots reserved  for subsidized  families.  She  pointed                                                              
out that the department doesn't take issue with that.                                                                           
MS.  CHASE  explained  that  over the  years  the  department  has                                                              
attempted, when funds  have been available, to  increase the rate.                                                              
Because  the  program is  now  federally  funded and  receives  an                                                              
appropriation  at the  beginning  of the  year  and "as  providers                                                              
either come or  go in the program,"  the rate may vary.   She told                                                              
members, "We  would like to have  the ability to have  the rate be                                                              
flexible,  based on  the amount  of  funding that's  there at  any                                                              
point in time."  She said this is why the fiscal note is zero.                                                                  
CHAIR  DYSON asked  why  the  administration hadn't  brought  this                                                              
bill forward.                                                                                                                   
Number 0970                                                                                                                     
MS. CHASE answered,  "Well, it could be that  Representative Hayes                                                              
beat us  to the  punch."   She reiterated  that the department  is                                                              
very supportive of the bill.                                                                                                    
CHAIR DYSON asked  whether, over the last 20 years,  anyone in the                                                              
administration had thought it necessary to request this change.                                                                 
MS. CHASE offered  her thought that during the early  years of the                                                              
program,  the  funding  was  relatively  [stable],  and  when  the                                                              
program  began,  the monthly  base  rate was  as  low  as $8.31  a                                                              
child.  "So,  it seemed like a  long way to $50 at  the time," she                                                              
Number 1000                                                                                                                     
KALEN    SAXTON,   Child    Care    Connection,   testified    via                                                              
teleconference, noting  that her resource-and-referral  agency has                                                              
worked with  family child care  homes and centers  from Glennallen                                                              
to  Unalaska.     She   expressed  support   for  the   geographic                                                              
differential  as  a better  way  to  share  the funds,  which  are                                                              
needed and appreciated.                                                                                                         
CHAIR DYSON temporarily suspended the hearing on SSHB 292.                                                                      
HB 292-INCREASE CHILD CARE GRANTS                                                                                             
CHAIR  DYSON   returned  the  committee's  attention   to  SPONSOR                                                              
SUBSTITUTE  FOR HOUSE  BILL NO.  292,  "An Act  relating to  child                                                              
care grants; and providing for an effective date."                                                                              
Number 1538                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  JOULE moved to  report SSHB  292 out of  committee                                                              
with individual  recommendations and the accompanying  zero fiscal                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING  objected and  requested a synopsis  of the                                                              
Number 1515                                                                                                                     
MELINDA BRUNO,  Staff to  Representative  Joe Hayes, Alaska  State                                                              
Legislature,   speaking  on   behalf   of  Representative   Hayes,                                                              
sponsor, said  the bill  allows the state  to increase  the grants                                                              
awarded to  child care facilities  for quality measures  under the                                                              
child  care grant  program.   She  added,  "We  have this  federal                                                              
money, and  we want  to be able  to give  out the maximum  amount.                                                              
So this allows them to adjust the amount that's given out."                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE KOHRING asked what the money is used for.                                                                        
MS.  BRUNO referenced  the bill  packet, noting  that the  sponsor                                                              
statement  lists what  the child  care  grant program  does.   She                                                              
said  that it  betters  these facilities  by  providing funds  for                                                              
additional staff  and training, thereby improving  the environment                                                              
for children.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE  KOHRING expressed concern  that these  are private                                                              
businesses  receiving   government  subsidies,  and   offered  his                                                              
philosophical  objection.    He  asked, "If  they're  being  given                                                              
monies,  then  why   should  not  other  entities   and  different                                                              
industries be given  money, too, from government?"   He noted that                                                              
he  struggles  with this  underlying  concept.   He  indicated  he                                                              
wished to maintain his objection.                                                                                               
Number 1425                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL asked  if the  child care  grant could  be                                                              
used for anything from playground equipment to augmenting wages.                                                                
MS. BRUNO said she believed that to be correct.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  COGHILL surmised  that the  $50 base amount  could                                                              
expand rather rapidly, depending on the funds.                                                                                  
MS. BRUNO said it  depends on the amount of federal  funding being                                                              
used;  it will  not  be a  cost  to the  state.    This makes  the                                                              
maximum  amount  of federal  money  available  to adjust  for  the                                                              
geographical differences.                                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he disagreed with the whole concept.                                                                
Number 1354                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  suggested SSHB 292 is an  economical way to                                                              
provide  professional care  for  children.   Noting  that she  has                                                              
worked with kids  off and on for over 40 years,  she remarked that                                                              
in the  past 10 years,  Alaska's children  have taken  the largest                                                              
"hit"  because [the  state] has  systematically lowered  standards                                                              
of care.   She pointed  out that wages  of state workers  and most                                                              
others  are  much  higher  than  those of  people  who  work  with                                                              
children.  She spoke in support of the bill.                                                                                    
Number 1213                                                                                                                     
A  roll  call  vote was  taken.    Representatives  Dyson,  Joule,                                                              
Coghill, and  Cissna voted  to move [SSHB  292] out  of committee.                                                              
Representative  Kohring voted  against  it.   Therefore, SSHB  292                                                              
was  reported  out  of the  House  Health,  Education  and  Social                                                              
Services Standing Committee by a vote of 4-1.                                                                                   

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