Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)

03/16/2010 09:00 AM Senate STATE AFFAIRS

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Moved HJR 24 Out of Committee
Moved SCR 14 Out of Committee
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
           HJR 24-FED. SCHOOL LUNCH PROGRAM/MILITARY                                                                        
9:13:26 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  MENARD  announced the  first  order  of business  to  come                                                               
before the committee would be HJR 24.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE  JAY  RAMRAS,  sponsor  of HJR  24,  said  he  and                                                               
Senator Paskvan both represent Ft.  Wainwright, which has had two                                                               
active duty deployments of 4,000 men  and women in the last three                                                               
years.  Many  military  families   live  off  base.  The  current                                                               
calculation for  the reduced breakfast  or the free  school lunch                                                               
program  takes the  off base  housing allowance  into account  in                                                               
addition  to a  family's income.  Sometimes the  computation will                                                               
pop an enlisted  family out of the ability to  qualify for a free                                                               
or reduced lunch program. HJR 24  brings this to the attention of                                                               
Congress. Other states  are interested in this issue  as well and                                                               
Alaska can lead by example.                                                                                                     
9:16:17 AM                                                                                                                    
He  added  that  he  visited   Arctic  Light  Elementary  on  Ft.                                                               
Wainwright which  is a school  that enjoys 100% employment  of at                                                               
least one  parent per student  by virtue  of being on  a military                                                               
base. Over  90 percent of  the students  qualify for the  free or                                                               
reduced  lunch  program.  This  is  indicative  of  the  peculiar                                                               
relationship that the U.S. has  with its military: applauding and                                                               
recognizing service  but not  rewarding that  service monetarily.                                                               
Other incentives keep the military robust.                                                                                      
CHAIR  MENARD said  she  appreciates  how zealous  Representative                                                               
Ramras has been for lunch programs.                                                                                             
SENATOR PASKVAN commented that this is  a part of the big problem                                                               
of too  many kids going to  school hungry. HJR 24  would help aid                                                               
one segment of such kids.                                                                                                       
9:18:31 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD opened public testimony.                                                                                           
DEAN   HAMBURG,  administrator,   school  lunch   program,  Kenai                                                               
Peninsula  Borough   School  District,  and  public   policy  and                                                               
legislative chair, Alaska School  Nutrition Association, said the                                                               
USDA supplies  Alaska with support  for almost 10  million school                                                               
meals each school year. Many  students receiving free and reduced                                                               
meals  are  children  of military  families.  Presently,  funding                                                               
provided to  military families to  support off base  housing must                                                               
be  counted  as income  when  that  family  applies for  free  or                                                               
reduced  price  USDA meals.  The  requirement  to report  housing                                                               
income  sometimes  disqualifies  military  families  from  school                                                               
breakfast  and lunch  programs.  Eliminating  the requirement  to                                                               
report the housing allowance as  income when applying for free or                                                               
reduced  price  meals,  would offer  appropriate  and  meaningful                                                               
support to Alaska military families. HJR  24 acts as a message of                                                               
to change current application criteria.                                                                                         
9:21:21 AM                                                                                                                    
AMY ROUSE,  director of nutrition services,  Fairbanks North Star                                                               
Borough School  District, said since  the military has  chosen to                                                               
privatize  base and  post  housing, all  families  now receive  a                                                               
Basic Allowance  for Housing (BAH).  According to  USDA guidance,                                                               
if the  family lives on  any military installation,  their income                                                               
figure excludes BAH.  If the family lives in  the private housing                                                               
market,  renting or  owning,  BAH  has to  be  included in  their                                                               
income  calculation. For  many families,  this is  the difference                                                               
between approval and denial of  meal benefits. Ms. Rouse shared a                                                               
story about  a mother  asking why her  children were  denied meal                                                               
benefits while  her friends' children received  free meals. Their                                                               
husbands were the  same rank, on the same pay  with the same BAH.                                                               
Her friend's family lives on  Ft. Wainwright and her family lives                                                               
in Fairbanks. Ms. Rouse had  to explain the required inclusion of                                                               
the family's BAH as income when  living off base. The mother said                                                               
this was extremely unfair as  post housing was not available when                                                               
her family moved to Fairbanks.                                                                                                  
MS. ROUSE said  she often fields questions about  why children in                                                               
one family  qualify for free  or reduced school meals  and others                                                               
do not. Many  military families feel they are  being punished for                                                               
living in the private housing  market. Families should be treated                                                               
the same and  income calculated the same regardless  of where the                                                               
family resides.                                                                                                                 
9:24:40 AM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR MENARD closed public testimony.                                                                                           
SENATOR  MEYER  moved  to  report  HJR  24  from  committee  with                                                               
individual  recommendations and  attached  fiscal note(s).  There                                                               
being no objection, the motion carried.                                                                                         

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