Legislature(2017 - 2018)CAPITOL 106

04/27/2017 03:00 PM HEALTH & SOCIAL SERVICES

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* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
-- Delayed to 10 Minutes Following Session --
+ Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled TELECONFERENCED
*+ HB 234 EXTEND ALASKA HEALTH CARE COMMISSION TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
*+ HB 236 EXTEND SENIOR BENEFITS PAYMENT PROGRAM TELECONFERENCED
Heard & Held
          HB 236-EXTEND SENIOR BENEFITS PAYMENT PROGRAM                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:45:37 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that the final order of business would                                                                
be HOUSE BILL NO. 236, "An Act extending the Alaska senior                                                                      
benefits payment program."                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
4:46:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MERCEDES  COLBERT, Staff,  Representative Scott  Kawasaki, Alaska                                                               
State  Legislature,  paraphrased   from  the  Sponsors  Statement                                                               
[included in  members' packets] which  read as  follows [original                                                               
punctuation provided]:                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     House  Bill  236  would   extend  the  Senior  Benefits                                                                    
     Program sunset  clause to  2022, ensuring  another four                                                                    
     years of support for low  income seniors across Alaska.                                                                    
     Without action, the program would end in 2018.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     The   Senior  Benefits   Program  protects   low-income                                                                    
     seniors by  providing them with modest  cash assistance                                                                    
     to pay  for expenses  like food,  heating, electricity,                                                                    
     transportation and prescription medication.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
     The  program  was  established in  2007  and  currently                                                                    
     provides assistance  to nearly 12,000 Alaskans  ages 65                                                                    
     and older with incomes at  75 percent, 100 percent, and                                                                    
     175 percent  of the  federal poverty  level. Assistance                                                                    
     ranges from  $47 to $250  a month for  eligible seniors                                                                    
     depending on  income and the size  of the appropriation                                                                    
     from the Alaska State  Legislature. The Senior Benefits                                                                    
     Program is  a successor  to the Longevity  Bonus, which                                                                    
     was created in 1972.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     This important program protects  seniors who have spent                                                                    
     a lifetime building  this state. It lends  a small hand                                                                    
     to low-income seniors who need  assistance to help make                                                                    
     ends   meet.  Terminating   this   program  would   put                                                                    
     thousands of  seniors at risk  for losing means  to buy                                                                    
     essential  items necessary  for  maintaining a  healthy                                                                    
     lifestyle.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
4:49:00 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SULLIVAN-LEONARD asked if there was a different                                                                  
process for new applicants to this benefit.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE   SCOTT   KAWASAKI,  Alaska   State   Legislature,                                                               
acknowledged that the number of  beneficiaries was not static, as                                                               
people moved,  died, or  decided they did  not want  the benefit.                                                               
He said  the same amount had  been budgeted for the  last several                                                               
years, about  $20 million.   He said that sometimes  the payments                                                               
would  take  a  different  effect   relative  to  the  number  of                                                               
recipients.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:50:46 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE SULLIVAN-LEONARD  asked if anyone could  apply and                                                               
whether there was an open enrollment period.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
4:51:42 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MONICA WINDOM,  Director, Director's  Office, Division  of Public                                                               
Assistance,  Department of  Health  and  Social Services  (DHSS),                                                               
said that  an individual could  apply at  any time and  there was                                                               
not a specific enrollment period.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
4:52:34 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
KEN  HELANDER, Advocacy  Director, AARP,  stated support  for the                                                               
continuation  of the  senior benefit  program, pointing  out that                                                               
the program would sunset next year  if not extended.  He reported                                                               
that his  office had  received many calls  from seniors  who were                                                               
dependent on  the benefit from  this program.  He  explained that                                                               
these  people  were not  able  to  supplement their  already  low                                                               
incomes  with a  part  time  job, and  "really  have very  little                                                               
capacity  to cut  expenses by  being more  frugal."   He declared                                                               
that these were  "people who are living on the  edge ... and they                                                               
were struggling  in independent situations,  not wanting  to have                                                               
to  leave home,  have to  go  into a  higher level  of care  that                                                               
ultimately  will cost  the  state  a great  deal  more money  per                                                               
person than these small benefits do."   He reported that the AARP                                                               
policy  was that  state resources  should  go, even  in times  of                                                               
scarcity, to the people who  were most vulnerable and most needy.                                                               
He added  that this program was  part of the safety  net that the                                                               
community depended upon.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
4:55:27 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
DAVID  BLACKETER, Chair,  Alaska Commission  on Aging,  said that                                                               
all the previous comments and testimony  had "been right on."  He                                                               
declared support  for proposed  HB 236.   He  shared some  of his                                                               
personal  expenses and  difficulties  to make  ends meet,  adding                                                               
that there was "very little  cushion" for life spending and minor                                                               
emergencies.   He pointed  out that low  income people  in Alaska                                                               
were similar to the state,  both had reduced income and increased                                                               
bills.    He acknowledged  that  there  was belt  tightening  but                                                               
emphasized that  "we're down to  the end of  the belt."   He said                                                               
that  this help  was  very  much needed,  and  he strongly  urged                                                               
passage of proposed HB 236.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
4:58:43 PM                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SPOHNHOLZ announced that HB 236 would be held over.                                                                       

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB234 Supporting Document Chapter 18.09 Health Care Commission Statute.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Supporting Document-AHCC Annual Report 2014.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Supporting Document-AHCC-Audit 2013.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Supporting Document-AHCC-Final-Report-Audit 2017.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB 234 ver A 4.17.17.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Sponsor Statement 4.17.17.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Fiscal Note DHSS--DSS 4.25.17.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Supporting Document-Support Letter 4.24.17.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB234 Supporting Document Office of the Governor_ Administrative Order 246.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HB 234
HB 236 ver A.PDF HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 9/28/2017 2:00:00 PM
HHSS 2/6/2018 3:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB236 Sponsor Statement.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 2/6/2018 3:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB236 Supporting Documents AARP Letter Support.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 9/28/2017 2:00:00 PM
HHSS 2/6/2018 3:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB236 Supporting Documents Alaska Commission on Aging.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 9/28/2017 2:00:00 PM
HHSS 2/6/2018 3:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB236 Supporting Documents Arneson Support Letter.pdf HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 9/28/2017 2:00:00 PM
HHSS 2/6/2018 3:00:00 PM
HB 236
HB236 Supporting Documents Senior Benefits Program Fact Sheet.PDF HHSS 4/25/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 4/27/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 5/4/2017 3:00:00 PM
HHSS 2/6/2018 3:00:00 PM
HB 236