House Approves Senior Benefits Program

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

Monday, the House approved a program that helps low-income senior citizens with a small monthly benefit to encourage them to stay in the state. The Senior Benefits Program provides up to $250 per month to about 10,000 people and starts with lower payments to those who receive less than 175-percent of the federally-set poverty level.   Their average age is 75 – and the oldest recipient is 105-years old.

Originally passed in 2007 – and set to expire in June without the extension – the program costs about $20-million per year and is fully funded in the budget the governor prepared for next year.

In explaining the program to the Finance Committee this morning, sponsor Mike Hawker said the program is not seen as an “entitlement” – meaning it can be eliminated if necessary.

Finance Co-Chair Bill Stoltze points out that the Parnell administration recognizes the potential growth of the program as the general population ages and has added a supplemental appropriation to cover its growth this year.

The bill – the first in this year’s session – passed the committee and on the floor with no dissention.  The Senate has already scheduled a hearing on its own version of the measure on Wednesday.

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