Reps. Kawasaki, Spohnholz, and Fansler Seek to Extend Senior Benefits
HB 236 Extends Sunset Clause for Alaska’s Senior Benefits Program to 2022
Juneau – Representatives Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), and Rep. Zach Fansler (D-Bethel) introduced legislation today to extend the Senior Benefits Program sunset clause to 2022, ensuring another four years of support for low income seniors across Alaska. Without action, the program would end in 2018.
The Senior Benefits Program protects low-income seniors by providing them with modest cash assistance to pay for expenses like food, heating, electricity, transportation, and prescription medication.
“Grandparents want to spend more time teaching their grandchildren family recipes and pastimes. Unfortunately, many seniors need a small hand to help make ends meet,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “Extending this important program protects seniors who have spent a lifetime building this state.”
The Alaska Senior Benefits Payment Program was established in 2007 and currently provides assistance to nearly 12,000 Alaskans ages 65 and older with incomes at 75 percent, 100 percent, and 175 percent of the federal poverty level. Assistance ranges from $47 to $250 a month for eligible seniors depending on income and the size of the appropriation from the Alaska State Legislature. The Senior Benefits Program is a successor to the Longevity Bonus, which was created in 1972.
“I am proud to support a program that provides needed assistance to our elders. Among the rural districts, my region has the highest population of seniors ages 65 and older,” said Rep. Fansler. “The Senior Benefits Program is modest yet goes a long way, especially where milk now costs $8 a gallon.”
Alaska economists expect Alaska’s senior population to double in the next ten years, from roughly 70,000 to 140,000 people.
“As Chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee, I anticipate appointing a subcommittee to reach out to our seniors during the interim and bring back recommendations to improve the Senior Benefits Program,” said Rep. Spohnholz. “It’s my hope that we can find more ways to help our seniors and elders continue to make Alaska their home.”
House Bill 236 was formally introduced today and referred to the House Health and Social Services Committee.
For more information, please contact Rep. Scott Kawasaki’s office at (907) 456-7423.