Alaska must extend the Senior Benefits program

Many Alaskan Seniors are on a fixed income, which has less and less buying power over time. I watched how difficult it was for my grandmother to cope with balancing her basic needs over her last few years. I can only imagine the trouble posed for seniors without a family structure to support them. A small, additional income helps our neediest seniors make essential purchases like food, medicine and housing.

Unfortunately, the Senior Benefits Program, which helps nearly 11,000 needy seniors, is set to expire June 30, 2015. This is why I introduced House Bill 261 to permanently protect this program from the risk of budget cuts. As legislators, we need to show our seniors that they are valued members of the community who deserve the stability that renewing the program this year can provide.

The Senior Benefits Program is needs-based and covers Alaskans across the state, from the West Aleutians to the North Slope to Ketchikan. It pays a set amount to Alaska residents over age 65 who meet certain conditions, including an income requirement.

Knowing that this amount is dependable helps Seniors balance household expenses. Even facing budget deficits, we can afford to help our neediest seniors by permanently protecting this program from budget cuts. More seniors call Alaska home than ever before and seniors are the fastest growing segment of our population. This program recognizes their struggle to make ends meet and the risk of living with financial uncertainty. This is why I am working this year to ensure that this program is renewed and that our seniors can rely on the support of the Alaska Legislature.

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