Senate Bill No. 302

(By Senators Manchin, Wiedebusch, Anderson, Bailey,

Bowman, Love, Plymale, White, Ross, Schoonover,

Dittmar, Buckalew, Dugan, Deem and Scott)


[Introduced February 9, 1995; referred to the Committee
on Health and Human Resources; and then to the Committee on Finance.]

A BILL to amend chapter nine of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated article six-a, relating to creating the living assistance program, staffed by senior citizen volunteers, to teach and otherwise assist those persons on public assistance programs in this state; findings and conclusions; administration of the program; sunset provision; and performance audit to be performed by auditor.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That chapter nine of the code of West Virginia, one thousand nine hundred thirty-one, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated article six-a, to read as follows:


§9-6A-1. Short title.
This article shall be known as and is hereby designated to be the "Living Assistance Program Act of 1995."
§9-6A-2. Legislative findings and conclusions.
The Legislature hereby finds and concludes the following:
(a) Americans have for two decades demanded a public assistance system that embodies their compassion, advances their highest aspirations for the poor, and promotes their values;
(b) It has been the goal of West Virginia's governor and the governor's cabinet on children and families to collaborate with local communities to promote health, development and well-being within the family by early and consistently supporting families in addressing and resolving problems;
(c) Limited resources particularly limit the availability of personnel for such an effort;
(d) There are three hundred thousand citizens over age sixty-four in West Virginia, most of whom are in good health and many of whom are willing to sacrifice some of their valuable time for a worthy cause;
(e) The nation's growing pool of retirees deserve wider opportunities to exercise their sense of civic obligation and to engage in public service;
(f) Senior citizens tend to be knowledgeable and competent problem solvers; and
(g) Senior citizens are uniquely qualified for an enhanced role as stewards of the underclass.
§9-6A-3. Establishment of office of the senior corps.
There is hereby established within the department of health and human resources the office of the senior corps. The secretary shall appoint a full-time director to administer the office. The director shall, in addition to administering the living assistance program and in accordance with the provisions of this article, recruit members, while maintaining a registry of existing membership of individuals, who are willing to volunteer their time and services in support of legitimate goals and purposes as directed by the secretary, including but not limited to, participation in the living assistance program.
§9-6A-4. The living assistance program.
The governor, the department of health and human resources, and the Legislature of West Virginia shall develop, enact and administer a living assistance program which would offer training, information and direction to an all-volunteer West Virginia senior corps.
The living assistance program would be aimed at families at risk in West Virginia, and be designed to help them lift themselves out of poverty and into the middle class. The senior corps volunteers would serve as the stewards of the living assistance program, mentoring public aid recipients in life skills related to work, consumer skills, budgeting, health and nutrition, education, literacy, sufficiency and personal and professional success. Senior citizen volunteers in the program should be trained as service providers who are respectful of parents, mindful of confidentiality, and knowledgeable about resources.
To be eligible to receive the services of any senior corps member through the living assistance program, an individual or family must be receiving public assistance in some form, as exists through the department of health and human resources. In those counties where there are a sufficient number of volunteers, all individuals and family members receiving public assistance shall be required to enroll in the living assistance program.
§9-6A-5. Senior corps participation in the living assistance

The senior corps, as directed by the director, shall execute the living assistance program, as created by this article, in order to facilitate and promote the following purposes:
(a) To lift the income of the poor, to liberate their potential, and to empower them to "bootstrap" themselves out of poverty;
(b) To help teach public aid recipients that their private choices have public consequences, that hard work is generally rewarded in our economy, that personal success is generally within their control, and that taking good care of one's children is a public good;
(c) To help guide many of those on public assistance into job training, GED passage or high school graduation, vocational institutions and even college;
(d) To help public aid recipients make good decisions about health, nutrition and education for preschool children, with attention to the long-term development of children as future citizens and workers;
(e) To teach the poor, especially parents, how to shop for nutritional food, how to prepare nutritional meals, and how to help their family live a healthier lifestyle;
(f) To help public aid recipients to access prenatal care, child immunizations, "well-child" health screenings, and WIC nutrition services, and save money for their own health care;
(g) To help show young, poor parents that early childhood experiences form the foundations for life-long health, lifestyle, self-esteem, self-discipline, attitudes toward learning, problem solving ability, creativity, and social skills;
(h) To help many adults from impoverished backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty by offering their own children early stimulation, family support, at-home learning especially for those families not served by head start or other quality preschool programs, and parental "coaching" on the value of education; and
(i) To help aid poor parents in enhancing their children's physical, cognitive, emotional and social development, and assure that they arrive at school with far fewer problems.
§9-6A-6. Administration of program; screening and training of
volunteers; matching volunteers with families; time limits for providing service.

(a) The secretary shall make rules that apply to administration of the senior corps and the living assistance program, respectively, which shall be adhered to by the director. Such rules shall set minimum standards that must be met in order to participate as a volunteer. Volunteers shall be limited to persons who are fifty-five years old or older. Any prospective volunteer shall be required by the secretary to submit to a criminal background check and all other reasonable inquiries designed to insure minimum standards are met. The secretary, therefore, shall design and provide printed forms to be used as applications by applicants seeking to volunteer their services which shall be maintained by the department.
Families receiving assistance through the department shall be given the option to join the living assistance program, or in those counties where a sufficient number of volunteers exist, instructed to join the living assistance program and they shall be provided printed forms designed to ascertain whether or not they intend to meet volunteers for any legitimate purpose relating to receiving guidance, instruction or emotional support regarding improving their living situation consistent with the purposes set forth herein. Printed forms required hereunder shall include space specifically designated to elicit information regarding the particular kind of guidance, instruction or emotional support that the particular family or individual receiving assistance desires. The director shall determine whether such desired guidance, instruction or emotional support is appropriate in relation to one or more of the legitimate purposes for which this article is intended.
The secretary shall provide rules designed to match volunteers with persons who request guidance, instruction or emotional support.
(b) The director shall provide training, approved and authorized by the secretary, to any approved volunteers designed to apprise them generally regarding the administrative process utilized to run the primary public assistance programs relative to the families and individuals to which such volunteers shall offer service. The director shall, additionally, provide any further training, approved and authorized by the secretary that is reasonably related to providing service as contemplated under this article and which is considered appropriate and worthwhile.
(c) Once volunteers are matched to a particular family or individual in order to provide service in accordance with the provisions of this article, the secretary shall notify such family or individual of the volunteer's name and of a time in which such volunteer may be expected to initiate contact in order to begin providing service. Volunteers shall thereafter file with the director, on a form to be devised and provided by the department, monthly reports containing information regarding their work.

NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to create the Living Assistance Program Act of 1995. The bill provides for the secretary of health and human resources to develop and, through a director, to be appointed by the secretary, to administer a program designed to enlist senior citizens as volunteers to guide, instruct and offer insight to persons on public assistance. The director is appointed to administer the office of the senior corps, which among its purposes, shall be providing senior corps members to staff the living assistance program. The bill sets forth findings and conclusions, as well as purposes, concerning the types of problems and concerns that could be addressed by senior citizens in assisting persons on public assistance. These include achieving further education, taking better care of children and meeting children's needs to a greater degree, engaging in better nutritional and health-related practices and learning to be more productive and understanding the value of practicing the work ethic in relation to improving one's lifestyle and economic circumstances.

Article 6A is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.