Health and Human Services

Aid to dependent children changes amended, advanced

A bill intended to remove the “cliff effect” in the state’s Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) program was amended to include an intergenerational poverty task force and advanced from select file April 13.

LB89, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kathy Campbell, would increase the maximum benefit each year through 2019, after which it would be set at 70 percent of the standard need. The bill also would change the amount of gross earned income that is disregarded for ADC applicants, increasing it to 50 percent once eligibility is established.

Omaha Sen. Heath Mello offered an amendment, which he originally introduced as LB335, that would establish a task force to study intergenerational poverty in Nebraska. The state needs to analyze poverty demographics and evaluate existing state programs and policies that seek to alleviate poverty, he said.

Mello noted that the Hispanic poverty rate in Omaha has increased 40 percent in the last decade and said poverty is a consistent problem in counties across Nebraska.

“Intergenerational poverty, particularly as it relates to children, is an issue facing the entire state,” he said.

The task force would include the chairpersons of the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees as well as three at-large members appointed by the Executive Board of the Legislative Council.

Nonvoting members would include representatives from the state departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Education as well as a variety of community stakeholders and policy experts.

The task force would analyze the ADC, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, child care assistance and Employment First programs with a focus on helping children escape the cycle of poverty. A preliminary report would be presented to the Legislature and the governor by Dec. 15, 2015, and a final report—including a long-range strategic plan—by Dec. 15, 2016.

Omaha Sen. John McCollister spoke in favor of the amendment, saying the arrival of new leadership at DHHS provides an opportune time to examine programs aimed at eliminating poverty in Nebraska.

“The Legislature has a legitimate interest in the effectiveness of these programs,” he said.

Following adoption of the Mello amendment on a 32-0 vote, lawmakers advanced the bill to final reading by a voice vote.

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