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Juneau – Thursday, Alaska Governor Bill Walker put his signature on a significant piece of legislation to extend Alaska’s Senior Benefits Program through June of 2024. House Bill 236, sponsored by Representative Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks), was officially signed into law in Fairbanks during the Annual Senior Citizen Recognition Day event organized by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The bill passed the Alaska Legislature this year nearly unanimously.
“The Senior Benefits Program, which serves the pioneers who built Alaska, shows our shared commitment to helping those who helped build our great state. The elders and seniors who use the Senior Benefits Program are the ones who cared for us, and it’s our turn to care for them,” said Rep. Kawasaki. “I believe that Alaskans who have served their community all their lives deserve to maintain their quality of life without having to sacrifice their home or health. That is exactly what the Senior Benefits Program does, and I was honored to sponsor the bill.”
Currently, the Senior Benefits Program assists nearly 12,000 low-income seniors by providing modest monthly cash assistance, based on three tiers of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for Alaska. Recipients use the $76, $175 or $250 monthly payments to help buy essential items necessary for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, such as groceries, medication, transportation, rent, and utilities. Last September, a subcommittee on the bill, chaired by Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), hosted a statewide public testimony event that resulted in this year’s effort to extend the program to give Alaska’s seniors certainty that the program will be available in the future.
“In Alaska, we honor and respect our elders. That respect is illustrated by the extension of the Senior Benefits Program for another six years. The overwhelming public support for the program underscored the importance of this program that gives our seniors and elders the helping hand they deserve,” said Rep. Spohnholz.
Today’s bill signing means that HB 236 is now law and that payments through the Senior Benefits Program will continue uninterrupted. Without this bill, the program would have been forced to end on June 30.
“Thank you to the many co-sponsors of House Bill 236 and to the example of bipartisanship demonstrated by both chambers and the dozens of senior advocacy groups and organizations who helped pass this bill swiftly,” said Rep. Kawasaki.