House Bill 16, authored by Representative Mike Hawker (R), passed in the final days of the Alaska legislative session. With the passage of HB16, the “Senior Benefits” bill, the program will provide a financial lifeline for low income seniors until 2015. The bill, co-sponsored by 23 House members and 15 Senators passed by a vote of 40-0 in the House and 20-0 in the Senate.
“There is no doubt that the Senior Benefits program has proven to be an invaluable help to many older Alaskans who might not be able to afford to stay here without it,” wrote Marie Darlin, coordinator of AARP’s Capital City Task Force in her letter of support to the House of Representatives.
Both Darlin and AARP Advocacy Director Pat Luby were among those who advocated for the program.
The program has more than 10,000 older Alaskans enrolled in the program, but AARP Alaska estimates there are an additional 14,000 Alaskans who qualify for the program but for some reason, haven’t enrolled.
In a press release, bill sponsor Hawker said, "My colleagues and I recognize the value of senior citizens in our communities, and the financial challenges older Alaskans often face. We want our senior citizens to have peace of mind knowing these modest benefit payments will continue to offset high costs of living."
Seniors with limited incomes receive between $125 and $250 dollars per month. In a state where the average residential cost for home energy exceeds 275 percent of the national average and where health care costs since 1982 have risen twice as fast as general inflation, Alaska’s low income seniors need this program. Benefits amounts are based on gross annual income. Assets such as savings accounts are not taken into consideration. For example: A couple with an annual income of less than $32,165 ($2,680 monthly) is each eligible for $125 monthly; a single with an annual income of less than $23,800 ($1,984 monthly) is also eligible for $125 monthly in Senior Benefits.
Find more information on the Senior Benefits program including income and household guidelines online, or call toll free 1-888-352-4150.