JUNEAU (AP) -- A bill allowing regional nonprofit Native organizations to administer state welfare programs was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Tony Knowles.
Knowles told a crowd of Native leaders, legislators and participants gathered for Celebration 2000 that the new law bill puts important decisions about welfare, work, and self-sufficiency at the local level.
Under House Bill 98, four Native organizations, including Tlingit and Haida Central Council, Tanana Chiefs Conference, the Association of Village Council Presidents, and the Metlakatla Indian Community, may run Native Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs and incorporate local values.
When the bill was debated in the House in April, Rep. Carl Morgan, R-Aniak, said Native nonprofit corporations were in the best position to administer welfare programs because they already have a presence in rural communities and they provide services such as education and employment programs.
Morgan said Native organizations could take a comprehensive approach to moving clients from welfare to work and reduce caseloads and costs.
The bill lists the programs as pilot projects that will end in five years. Knowles said he expects them to be the start of a longer partnership.
Tlingit and Haida has announced plans to operate temporary assistance beginning July 1. The program will serve about 480 people in Native families throughout Southeast Alaska.
Tlingit and Haida will get $2.4 million annually from the federal government and $2.5 million annually from the state to provide cash benefits, child care, and other welfare-to-work services for families.
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