Insufficient funds: Some senior benefits won't be paid in May, June - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, December 10, 2019
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Insufficient funds: Some senior benefits won’t be paid in May, June

Alaskans who receive $76 per month in senior benefits will not receive those benefits in May or June due to insufficient funding, the Department of Health and Social Services said on its website today. The state is coming to the end of the fiscal year and has run out of money for the program, which has been adding recipients year over year.

“At this time we anticipate no reduction in benefits to those individuals receiving $175 and $250 per month,” the website states.

The Division of Public Assistance has begun notifying recipients of this change. Those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will have their cases updated to allow for an increase in benefit as a result in the suspension of their Senior Benefits.

The Senior Benefits Program was established in 2007 and pays cash to Alaska seniors age 65 or older who have low to moderate income.  Cash payments are $76, $175, or $250 each month, depending on income.  The income guidelines are tied to the Alaska Federal Poverty Guidelines and change each year as the poverty level changes.

Those receiving $76 a month are in higher income brackets, with incomes of $27,300 per year (or $36,978 per married couple). The benefit schedule is published here.

The amount for that highest  income bracket was $47 monthly until 2016, when the Walker Administration adjusted all of the payments to nearly double. The way the program is structured, if it runs out of funds, people in the higher income brackets get cut first.

The program is now short about $800,000. The Dunleavy Administration, in a cost-cutting move, is proposing eliminating the program altogether as it tries to close a $1.6 billion budget gap.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • For perspective, the program is short about $800,000…
    .
    …but the Alaska Municipal League Investment Pool has $600,000,000 of taxpayers’ money stashed out of reach.

  • The iconoclastic methods being methodically inserted into most programs for Alaskans since dims have had the opportunity to do so, are eroding time tested programs in every area. That is, every area that doesn’t serve liberals, almost exclusively. A total disgrace by the very “politicians” that have vowed to “represent” all Alaskans equally. Now, with the budget cuts by Governor Dunleavy being proposed, they are irate. Not for Alaskans, but for their minions that propelled them into office. Time to make some major political changes in 2020, for the greater good of all Alaskans. Vote them out. The only real solution.

  • OK. So let me get this straight..a state with less than a million people and only a couple of sources of revenue, with an out of control budget, actually has a dept which supplements Alaskan senior citizens to the tune of 76-250./mo? And the former gov cut the PFD while keeping wasteful programs such as this in place? Crazy!!

    • With respect, part of getting it straight might be keeping in mind the Alaska Municipal League Investment Pool and what could be done with the –$600M– of taxpayers’ money they have ratholed away out of taxpayers’ reach.
      .
      The interest alone from that pile could fund a little something for seniors.
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      Parse the Alaska Municipal League web site and you’ll see it’s a nonprofit that’s been around more than 40 years and exists for –one– purpose.
      .
      Now that’s “crazy”.

  • Cut the Legislators per diem who are overpaid there should be enough money to pay the Senior citizens monthly benefits

  • SB58, last I heard was heard at Senate HHS with public comment last week. HB60 (House version) was heard and held by Rep Drummand, the week prior (she will not allow out of committee)
    As President of the Greater Alaska Chapter of AMAC, I have asked my membership if they support or oppose repeal of the Senior Benefits. 10-2 yes. We discussed a bit yesterday during our meeting, support all around (we had 34 attending).
    I talked to the OMB director personally about this and Todd Smoldon said the same yesterday as well, that the choice is support and protect the PFD, which equals out to over $250/month, or keep the Senior Benefits, along with the Dem-Socialist budget and no PFD in two year and only $500/year for those 2 years!
    Facts: 11,500 seniors receive Senior Benefits. Of that (approximate from memory, sorry but cannot find the actual numbers) Receiving $76 4000, receiving $175 4300 and receiving $250 3200. Again, note these numbers from memory, but I do remember that those getting th $250 were less than the other tiers. Those getting Senior Benefits getting SNAP 4200, those on Public Assistance (welfare) 6450 (these actual numbers).
    I’m also a member of the Alaska Commission on Aging and this is a hot topic. I reluctantly voted to oppose SB58, which at the time with the information I had I made that vote. I talked to the OMB Director about 2 weeks later. However, I did call for looking at cutting other programs, like Commission on Human Rights.
    Bottom line is those 11,500 seniors in financial low income are being used by the Democrat-Socialists in this budget fight.

    • A fight is it, how will you fight back? And win?
      .
      Surely not by Marquess of Queensbury Rules, “civility”, or any other gentlemanly means…
      .
      Another fact:: Alaska’s 2019 Lobbyist Directory shows clients invest about $20M annually to buy lobbyists who can rent or lease sympathetic legislators.
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      The client list does not include AMAC, aka Association of Mature American Citizens.
      .
      The client list does include AARP who pay their lobbyist $92,604 annually to rent or lease legislators sympathetic to: ” Issues important to older Alaskans, such as senior safety net, caregiving, healthcare access and costs, utilities, pensions, advance planning documents (e.g., powers of attorney), property taxes, affordable housing, transportation, guardianship.”
      .
      If the absence of desperate, dire public-service announcements from AARP are any indication, they seem okay with what’s happening.
      .
      So… tactics… where were your lot when our legislators were hang gliding and playing nonpartisan ball while on per diem?
      .
      One hopes you were you out there in their faces, hang gliding with them, running up mountains with them, jamming the Juneau airwaves with your own PSA’s, writing op-eds, appearing on television, talking on every talk-radio show in Alaska, presenting yourselves as people with a reasonable cause instead one more special interest nosing at the trough…
      .
      …doing whatever it takes to get the attention of Alaska’s junior junta most of whom don’t seem to give a damn one way or the other about constituents because they feel they don’t have to.
      .
      Show your chutzpah, that’s one way to win hearts and minds.

      • Morrigan

        Agreed, this is full on fight, no holds barred.

        Thanks for the AARP information, good to know. I see that Ken Hallander is salary at $92,604 a year! As AMAC President, ZERO salary! I’m not doing it for the money, I’m doing this for our seniors!

        Can you give me the link where you got the AARP information? What I got is a directory, but no links that I can find to that information.

        As to per diem, there is a lot of comments on that, most is knee jerk. So would you oppose per diem when the Governor veto’s the budget which will require special session(s)? At least 15 in the house support the Governor’s budget, what about those Senators that support the Governor? Should they be denied? Sleep in the office? Dip into their savings? I heard yesterday from Todd that the Governor will be ordering special sessions in the Matsu Valley. That will help our legislators for sure!

        So, what is our chapter doing? We just had our monthly meeting Saturday. We discuss these issues and others. I encourage my membership to call, write, e-mail, etc. to our legislators. In point of fact, Suzanne is scheduled for our May 11 meeting at the Palmer Senior Center at 11 AM. We are working (Todd will be supporting) for the Governor to attend. I invite you to attend and join AMAC and our Chapter (no requirement to join AMAC while joining our chapter).

        AMAC does not have grants, like AARP, so doing paid advertising is a non-starter. I do call in to local talk radio to promote upcoming meetings but like all of us, I don’t have the time to do all I’d like to do. We are growing as a chapter and will be doing more as time goes on.

        I look forward to seeing you at upcoming AMAC meetings.

        • Link is to the Alaska Public Office Commission (APOC).
          .
          Look for the 2019 Lobbyist Directory, you’ll find a search form…
          .
          Don’t enter anything, “submit” the form, you’ll get a choice to download the “csv” version.
          .
          Save the “csv” version as an Excel spreadsheet, expand the column widths to something useful, do then enter “AARP”.
          .
          That’s your official guide to Alaska politics. Something comes up about money or power, it’ll help take the mystery out of who bought whom and why.
          .
          You’ll see lobbyists paid annually, monthly, and hourly. Normalize monthly and hourly to annually, add up the column and you’ll get an idea of how much investors have at stake, and why you are where you are.
          .
          This is what’s on record, we have no clue what else is going on in the Holy City of Juneau; so a hardened cynic might believe this is but the tip (of the tip) of the iceberg.
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          No? look through the book again… which one of these hog trough honeys rented or leased a legislator to represent us?
          .
          Looks like you’re doing a good job… Don’t preach to the choir or do (too much) cheerleading.
          .
          Paid advertising might work if sponsors were persuaded to underwrite your effort.
          .
          Why? For you to win, the playing field has to be de-leveled, tilted, so these (expl del) slide right off.
          .
          Bellicose? You’re dealing with people who fight tooth and nail to butcher babies at taxpayers’ expense. So what makes you think they give a damn about senior citizens at the other end of the spectrum?
          .
          Doubtless, the remnants of the Greatest Generation have some ideas on how to win that war too.

  • A postscript to Mike Coons,
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    Our Editor par excellence summarized succinctly the character of Representatives arrayed against senior citizens whom they represent:
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    “Rep. Geran Tarr implied, delicately, that Johnstone is too old to serve on the Board, and should spend more time “transitioning” and visiting his family. Tarr pondered aloud that he may have too much experience, since he has, in the past, served three terms on the Board of Fisheries.”
    (“Kangaroo court: Committee tries to sink Fish Board nominee”, MRAK April 16, 2019)
    .
    That is but one of your opponents, Mike Coons.
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    No Legislator admonished its boorish behavior, which revealed what must be a fundamental contempt shared amongst its colleagues for Alaska’s senior citizens unless, of course, colleagues need seniors’ votes or money.
    .
    Good luck, you’ve quite the campaign ahead of you.

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