Dunleavy suspends senior benefit check for low-income Alaskans, blames Legislature

On April 11, the Dunleavy administration posted a notice on the state website saying, “Individuals currently receiving $76 per month in Senior Benefits will not receive benefits in May or June due to insufficient funding.”

This is an insufficient explanation.

“The payments made to seniors, while set in statute (AS 47.45.302), are subject to the available state funding for the program,” the Division of Public Assistance said.

There are about 4,700 Alaskans, earning no more than $2,275 a month, who receive the $75 monthly checks.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who wants to end the entire program, said this isn’t his fault.

He blames the 2018 Legislature, which didn’t appropriate enough money for the entire fiscal year. He claims the state had no choice but to take this action with three weeks notice.

Standing Tall is not telling the full story here.

A year ago nearly every member of the Legislature voted to extend the program until 2024. As both Republicans and Democrats have made clear, there is a way to keep the program going.

State law gives the health commissioner the authority to transfer $20 million within the department as needed and the Dunleavy administration decided not to investigate using that money.

At a confirmation hearing last week for health commissioner Adam Crum, Anchorage Rep. Harriet Drummond asked how much of the $20 million had been expended and whether there is $750,000 remaining, which would cover the checks for May and June.

Crum said he didn’t know how much of the $20 million has been spent.

Before suspending the checks, he should have done his homework and figured that out.

Dermot Cole2 Comments