Call to Order and Roll Call
Themeeting of the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee was held on Tuesday, July 2, 2013, at 10:00 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Wilson Stone, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Paul Hornback, Co-Chair; Representative Wilson Stone, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Jimmy Higdon, Dennis Parrett, and Robin L. Webb; Representatives Mike Denham, Tom McKee, Terry Mills, Ryan Quarles, and Jonathan Shell.
Guests: Joel Neaveill, Bill McCloskey, Angela Blank, Brian Murphy and Biff Baker, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy; Terry Tolan, Governor’s Office of Early Childhood and Brigitte Ramsey, Early Childhood Advisory Council.
The June 5, 2013, minutes were approved without objection by voice vote, upon a motion by Senator Parrett and second by Senator Hornback.
Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy
Mr. Joel Neaveill, Chief of Staff, and Mr. Bill McCloskey, Director of Financial Services, Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy (GOAP), testified about project funding decisions made by the Agricultural Development Board (ABD) during its June meeting.
Mr. Neaveill summarized funding allocations for the previous month under the County Agricultural Improvement (CAIP), Deceased Farm Animal Disposal Assistance, and On-Farm Energy programs.
Mr. Neaveill and Mr. McCloskey responded to a number of committee members’ questions about the On-Farm Energy programs, allocations that totaled over $1.3 million under the latest round of funding. The cost-share program is funded in part by federal stimulus, the Agricultural Development Fund (ADF), and the Tennessee Valley Authority. There have been 103 applications for funding under the program, with 100 approved for funding.
People who had applied under an earlier round of funding, but were denied, generally were approved in the latest round. Funding could not be granted for energy savings projects funded earlier; the projects had to be newer endeavors. The witnesses explained that engineer reviewed the projects to assure that projected energy savings were correctly estimated. Some regions of the state may not have many projects simply because most applications came from poultry or dairy operations, which consume a considerable amount of power. GOAP officials said the agency is talking to extension agents about publicizing the program and is considering energy projects that may involve newer technologies, such as solar generation.
GOAP officials reviewed two projects approved for state or local ADF funds in the previous Agricultural Development Board meeting: Meat Hook LLC, a Louisville project that involves opening an artisan butcher shop and delicatessen in a former feed store located in the downtown; and the Washington County Cattlemen Association, which will conduct a beginning farmer training program.
Meat Hook had originally sought $225,000 in state funds and a $525,000 low-interest loan from the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation (KAFC). The company received approval of $6,000 total in state and county ADF funds, and KAFC approved the loan last fall.
GOAP officials responded to several questions from committee members. The Meat Hook project will draw funds on the KAFC loan after the work is complete. Mr. Neaveill indicated farmer-producers are involved in the project, as is Marksbury Farm, a meat processing facility in Garrard County. The project is expected to add value to Kentucky products. Senator Hornback said there should be some assurance that goals are met and jobs created by the project, and there should be recourse if that does not occur.
The Washington County project was approved for $102,000 in county funds.
Following a GOAP report on administrative expenses allowed at the county council level, Senator Webb asked for an occasional report on those expenses.
Governor’s Office of Early Childhood
Ms. Terry Tolan, Executive Director, of the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, Ms. Brigitte Ramsey, Chair of the Program Investment Committee of the Early Childhood Advisory Council, and Beth Jurek, Policy and Budget Director for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services discussed the Early Childhood Development Initiative.
While presenting the office’s annual report, Ms. Tolan and Ms. Ramsey discussed: the importance of early vocabulary and reading; the role of the Early Childhood Advisory Council, components of the Council, including high quality early learning environments, supportive families, and access to data; the elements of school readiness; the screening tool used to access youngsters entering kindergarten; uses of the screening data to prepare children elementary school; and the many aspects of the KIDS NOW programs. Ms. Tolan indicated that KIDS NOW funding has declined from about $30 million in FY 2010 to the current FY 2014 appropriation of about $25 million.
In subsequent comments, Representative McKee emphasized the importance of dental care in ensuring good health of children.
Ms. Ramsey and Ms. Jurek responded to Representative Denham, who asked about programs that address prevalence of hunger among Kentucky’s school children. Ms. Ramsey said families are able to obtain funds from the federal nutrition programs. Ms. Jurek mentioned some of the tangential food programs, such as the Women, Infants, and Children program. She said also that the family resource centers in schools put food in backpacks for children to take home on the weekends. She said “hunger is a huge issue, even with all the government programs.”
Senator Higdon mentioned the impact that the “Toyota bornlearning Academy” program is having in his area.
Senator Higdon also suggested a way for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Fund (formerly “food stamps”) recipients to balance their monthly allotment through a twice-monthly distribution instead of the current monthly payment. Senator Higdon said recipients often buy non-perishables with the SNAP benefits, instead of perishables like milk, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Ms. Jurek said the SNAP payment is an electronic benefit transfer (EBT). She will check with the Cabinet about loading the EBT cards twice each month instead of once. Senator Higdon said that a twice-monthly benefits transfer would mean low-income families would not be running out of food at the end of the month, noting a family might run out on the 13th day of a 15-day cycle, but would not go weeks without the SNAP benefits.
Senator Parrett applauded the speakers for the early childhood programs. A school in his county is dedicated to early childhood education.
Responding to Representative Mills, who said he is hearing from child care providers in his district who are concerned about federal funding cuts, Ms. Jurek described how Kentucky was successful in getting people into jobs in the mid-90s under the old “welfare-to-work” program and that success led to an ultimate reduction in federal funds that are used to leverage other federal funds.
Senator Webb expressed her concern about the future of SNAP funds under this Congress as it debates the passage of the new U.S. Farm Bill.
The officials also indicated they were receptive to including foster care numbers in their data collection processes.
Representative Shell pointed out some of the abuses he has observed in recipients’ use of the EBT cards. He said there are reforms that can be undertaken. Representative Shell also talked about his family’s experience as caregivers for a younger child and emphasized the importance of reading to children.
Documents distributed during the meeting are available with meeting materials in the LRC Library. The meeting adjourned at approximately noon.