Legislature(2019 - 2020)BARNES 124


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        HB 60-REPEALING SENIOR BENEFITS PAYMENT PROGRAM                                                                     
8:29:16 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND announced  that  the final  order of  business                                                               
would  be  HOUSE  BILL  NO.  60, "An  Act  repealing  the  senior                                                               
benefits payment program; and providing for an effective date."                                                                 
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND noted  that House Bill 236,  [passed during the                                                               
Thirtieth  Alaska State  Legislature],  with the  short title  of                                                               
"Extend  Senior  Benefits Program,"  passed  both  the House  and                                                               
Senate  nearly unanimously  with bi-partisan  support; it  had 19                                                               
co-sponsors in  the House  and 16  cross-sponsors in  the Senate.                                                               
She related  that the bill  extended the Senior  Benefits Program                                                               
until 2024.  She continued as follows:                                                                                          
     We  want to  hear directly  from the  administration on                                                                    
     what  they  are trying  to  accomplish  by taking  away                                                                    
     these benefits  from over 11,000 low-income  elders and                                                                    
     seniors  in  our state,  who  are  usually on  a  fixed                                                                    
     income and can't  just go out and get a  job to make up                                                                    
     for the loss of these benefits every month.                                                                                
8:30:32 AM                                                                                                                    
SHAWNDA  O-BRIEN,   Director,  Division  of   Public  Assistance,                                                               
Department  of Health  and Social  Services  (DHSS), referred  to                                                               
handouts [included in  the committee packet] that  point out "the                                                               
population  being  served"  and   some  U.S.  Census  information                                                               
regarding  where  that  population  is  located.    She  directed                                                               
attention  to   a  handout,   titled  "Senior   Benefits  Program                                                               
Information & Fact Sheet Updated  January 2019."  She pointed out                                                               
that  the first  couple  paragraphs  of the  first  page give  an                                                               
overview of  the different levels  of the payment scale,  as well                                                               
as some  of the eligibility  criteria for those  participating in                                                               
the program.   At  the bottom  of the first  page is  last year's                                                               
eligibility   information   related   to  income   limits;   this                                                               
information gets  updated annually  on April  1.   Page 2  of the                                                               
handout gives  historical information "that breaks  out that same                                                               
detail for  the past several  years going  back to 2016"  to show                                                               
income limits of those who have  participated in the program.  It                                                               
also  shows where  the department  has had  to lower  the benefit                                                               
payment level for the lowest  tier in the program "to accommodate                                                               
what's been budgeted for the fiscal  year."  Over the last couple                                                               
years, the  lowest payment  amount has  had to  be reduced.   The                                                               
final  page  of  the  handout, she  noted,  shows  census-derived                                                               
information regarding where program  recipients live now, as well                                                               
as  the  history  of  the   Senior  Benefits  Program  since  its                                                               
8:33:13 AM                                                                                                                    
MS.  O'BRIEN said  the  other handouts  give  perspective on  the                                                               
dollars being  spent by "the  benefit tiers within  the program."                                                               
She said, "We  have been paying the lowest tier  of the program -                                                               
$76 in place of the $125  that's usually allotted to that payment                                                               
category.   You'll see that we  have about 4,731 people  that are                                                               
participating at  that lowest  tier."  She  added, "Based  on our                                                               
regulations, we're able  to reduce or eliminate  that lowest tier                                                               
to  allow for  the  payments to  continue for  folks  who have  a                                                               
higher need  for the  funds."  She  said there  are approximately                                                               
11,000 participants in the program,  3,000 of whom do not receive                                                               
benefits from any other DHSS program.   The remaining 9,000 or so                                                               
might be eligible for other  programs the department administers,                                                               
such as  [the federal Supplemental Nutrition  Assistance Program]                                                               
(SNAP) or Adult Public Assistance - or both.                                                                                    
8:34:26 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   KREISS-TOMKINS   remarked  that   although   the                                                               
information in  the committee  packet is  "helpful," he  does not                                                               
see  any  explanation  as  to  the reason  for  the  proposal  to                                                               
eliminate the Senior Benefits Program.                                                                                          
MS. O'BRIEN responded:                                                                                                          
     The administration  is in a  tough position  for having                                                                    
     to  find places  where  we have  general fund  spending                                                                    
     that can be  eliminated without a lot  of regulation or                                                                    
     other  things.   In this  case  ... the  bill is  being                                                                    
     introduced   to  reduce   or   eliminate  the   program                                                                    
     entirely.   This  is  an  entirely general  fund-funded                                                                    
     program, and  so there  aren't a  lot of  places within                                                                    
     ... our budget  that have programs that  are funded 100                                                                    
     percent with general  funds, and so to  find areas that                                                                    
     can be eliminated - this was one of those areas.                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE KREISS-TOMKINS said he  was trying to imagine "who                                                               
drew  the  short straw  in  the  administration to  present  this                                                               
bill."   He added,  "I would  love to  see the  commissioner here                                                               
next  time to  explain the  administration's perspective  why the                                                               
financial  benefit  of  eliminating  this program  is  worth  the                                                               
hardship it'll impose on Alaska seniors."   He asked how long Ms.                                                               
O'Brien has been  in her position and what she  thinks the impact                                                               
of eliminating the program would be.                                                                                            
MS. O'BRIEN answered that she  was appointed into her position in                                                               
January  [2019]  but has  worked  in  DHSS for  approximately  13                                                               
years.  She continued as follows:                                                                                               
     I believe  that the impact  is inevitable ....   As was                                                                    
     mentioned  previously,  these   are  dollars  going  to                                                                    
     people in the communities  who don't, maybe, have other                                                                    
     means  available to  them.   To  the  degree that  some                                                                    
     folks are  participating in other  programs -  like our                                                                    
     SNAP Program and the Adult  Public Assistance Program -                                                                    
     those benefits can  be adjusted for the  loss in income                                                                    
     for  the  Senior Benefits  Program.    And so,  to  the                                                                    
     degree  that  some of  those  recipients  might see  an                                                                    
     increase to their food stamps  or to their adult public                                                                    
     assistance  benefits, the  division  will be  reviewing                                                                    
     ... those pieces should this bill pass.                                                                                    
8:37:02 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE THOMPSON stated that he  finds it difficult "to go                                                               
after  our  most  vulnerable  population  -  the  elderly."    He                                                               
observed that in  order to get the $250 per  month, the income of                                                               
the elderly recipient  is "super low."  With this  money, he said                                                               
these  recipients are  trying  to buy  food  and medication,  and                                                               
without these funds they [must choose  between the two].  He said                                                               
he is  having a hard time  "adjusting to" or "agreeing  with" [HB
60].  He asked Ms. O'Brien  if the administration is hearing from                                                               
advocacy  groups in  Alaska on  "the  effects this  will have  on                                                               
MS. O'BRIEN answered yes, from some  of the advocacy groups.  She                                                               
added  that the  administration also  has received  feedback from                                                               
8:38:05 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR HANNAN  asked Ms. O'Brien  to "overlay"  senior benefits                                                               
with food stamps  and elderly public assistance.   She explained,                                                               
"When I  look at the  chart for senior  benefits, I guess  I just                                                               
presume  that  all  of  them, with  those  income  levels,  would                                                               
already be eligible  to those programs."  She  clarified that she                                                               
wants   illustrated   "the   intersect  between   the   financial                                                               
thresholds for those folks."                                                                                                    
MS. O'BRIEN replied that there  is another handout she could send                                                               
to  the committee  that  gives  examples of  "how  some of  those                                                               
impacts would look"  and "what the different criteria  are."  She                                                               
further offered  to send information  showing the  various income                                                               
categories.    She  said  some  of the  programs  vary  in  their                                                               
eligibility criteria  regarding allowed assets that  do not count                                                               
toward the applicant's  income.  She explained,  "That's when you                                                               
might not be  seeing some of those details, where  it does appear                                                               
that the ... income itself is  fairly low, but there may be other                                                               
things that  are preventing folks  from being eligible  for those                                                               
other programs."                                                                                                                
CO-CHAIR  HANNAN  asked  whether  the  homeowner's  tax  paid  by                                                               
someone who is mortgage-free is  not relevant as far as receiving                                                               
senior  benefits  but is  relevant  in  terms of  receiving  food                                                               
MS. O'BRIEN responded,  "Right."  She said the  first page offers                                                               
a  summary-level  overview  of  the eligibility  criteria.    She                                                               
explained that  eligibility is based  on a person's  annual gross                                                               
income  before  any  other  considerations.     Assets,  such  as                                                               
savings, are not  included; a person could own  his/her own home.                                                               
She said there were other details she could provide later.                                                                      
CO-CHAIR HANNAN offered an example  of someone who had written to                                                               
the  House Community  and  Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee.                                                               
She said  the person receives  senior benefits of $1,100  a month                                                               
and receives  $19 in food stamps  monthly.  She asked,  "So, some                                                               
of our food stamp eligibility is that low?"                                                                                     
MS. O'BRIEN answered yes.                                                                                                       
CO-CHAIR HANNAN concluded  then that with loss, at  $700 a month,                                                               
a  person would  probably be  receiving  $175 a  month in  senior                                                               
benefits.    She  asked,  "Would  their  food  stamp  eligibility                                                               
increase by up to $175 a month?"                                                                                                
MS.  O'BRIEN  answered  no,  the  person  would  not  receive  an                                                               
incrementally adjusted  increase to his/her food  stamps, but the                                                               
person's  eligibility would  change.   She  clarified, "So,  they                                                               
would receive an increase - just not dollar for dollar."                                                                        
CO-CHAIR HANNAN  said when she  read the amount of  $19 regarding                                                               
food  stamps,  she thought  it  must  have been  a  typographical                                                               
error.   She asked if it  was possible someone actually  could be                                                               
receiving an even lower amount.                                                                                                 
MS. O'BRIEN replied she would  follow-up with Co-Chair Hannan and                                                               
the committee about  the varying payments levels  within the SNAP                                                               
program,  because she  said she  is  not sure  whether there  are                                                               
lower levels.   She said  she could  also provide an  overview of                                                               
how the eligibility  scale looks in each of the  programs and how                                                               
they interact.                                                                                                                  
CO-CHAIR HANNAN stated,  "When we hear [the  term] 'food stamps,'                                                               
I  guess there's  a presumption  that  it's enough  money to  buy                                                               
food.    And as  this  person  articulates,  that $19  buys  them                                                               
ramen."   From the person's communication,  Co-Chair Hannan read,                                                               
"I'm too old to  hunt and fish, so I don't eat  meat or fish, and                                                               
I  can buy  some ramen,  and  that's it."   She  said she  cannot                                                               
imagine how that  must feel and "what kind of  hopeless that must                                                               
present."  The person cannot hunt or  fish or get a job that will                                                               
provide income.   She concluded, "I  am horrified at my  level of                                                               
ignorance about  how little  support we give  to people  that are                                                               
living on the margin, and  more information would be helpful, but                                                               
I'm not sure it will be satisfying."                                                                                            
8:43:15 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  asked if  the administration's  budget cut                                                               
would not be  able to go through if the  legislature chose not to                                                               
make these statutory changes.                                                                                                   
MS.  O'BRIEN answered,  "It's  already been  reduced  out of  the                                                               
budget, so  there would have to  be some action to  put the funds                                                               
back into the budget."                                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  asked whether, if the  legislature put the                                                               
money back  in, the governor would  be violating law if  he tried                                                               
to line-item veto the money back out if HB 60 does not pass.                                                                    
MS.  O'BRIEN  responded  that  she   is  not  certain  about  the                                                               
legalities in this regard.                                                                                                      
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN asked,  "Is this  just another  area where                                                               
the governor's  highest priority is that  $3,000 [permanent fund]                                                               
dividend [(PFD)], and so to make  that $3,000 dividend we have to                                                               
make these cuts  that are reflected in  this proposed legislative                                                               
MS. O'BRIEN  responded that the  reduction in the budget  was the                                                               
administration's  effort to  reduce the  budget "to  balance with                                                               
our revenues."                                                                                                                  
REPRESENTATIVE CLAMAN  suggested that the governor's  priority is                                                               
the $3,000 dividend over seniors.                                                                                               
MS. O'BRIEN  replied, "I  believe the  way that  it ...  has been                                                               
presented is that  we are ... reducing our  general fund spending                                                               
to align  with our  revenue collections -  what revenues  that we                                                               
have in the state."                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  CLAMAN  aligned  with   the  former  comments  of                                                               
Representative  Kreiss-Tomkins   that  he  is   disappointed  the                                                               
commissioner is not present and  that Ms. O'Brien "drew the short                                                               
8:45:09 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  JACKSON  reviewed that  11,500  is  the total  in                                                               
recipients, while 3,000  have no other assistance.   She asked if                                                               
there are other programs available to assist those 3,000.                                                                       
MS. O'BRIEN replied  there is a possibility that  those folks may                                                               
become  eligible  for  other  programs for  which  they  are  not                                                               
currently eligible.   For example, the loss  in public assistance                                                               
may make a  person eligible for SNAP or  Adult Public Assistance.                                                               
She  added,  "If  they're  eligible, they  would  apply  for  the                                                               
programs that  they're not currently participating  in, and we'll                                                               
review that eligibility at that time."                                                                                          
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON stated, "I'm  just saying, ... because the                                                               
PFD keeps  coming up,  and it  breaks my  heart that  they didn't                                                               
receive  funds that  they could  have  received in  the last  two                                                               
years."   She remarked  upon the  previously mentioned  amount of                                                               
$19 in food  stamps and how much food and  medication it would be                                                               
possible to buy.                                                                                                                
8:46:55 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND said  it sounds like if these  proposed cuts go                                                               
through and  the department must assess  potential recipients for                                                               
other  sources of  benefits, it  won't save  much in  staff time.                                                               
She  asked if  consideration had  been given  to the  effort that                                                               
would be needed to help  "potentially past recipients" find other                                                               
sources of assistance.                                                                                                          
MS. O'BRIEN replied  that the division is limited  in its ability                                                               
to help folks identify other  resources; however, there are other                                                               
groups  in  the  department  more   aligned  with  that  kind  of                                                               
outreach.  She said the  Division of Public Assistance would look                                                               
at  eligibility  information  and   provide  information  to  the                                                               
recipients  as to  their eligibility  to receive  SNAP and  Adult                                                               
Public Assistance.                                                                                                              
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND said  she assumed the proposed  cuts would also                                                               
result in a cut to staff that administers the programs.                                                                         
MS. O'BRIEN  said a  fiscal note shows  that within  the division                                                               
three full-time positions  would be eliminated.  She  said in the                                                               
past  the program  was staffed  at a  higher level,  but redesign                                                               
lowered the number.   She said there would be  cost reductions in                                                               
other areas, as well, such as  "mailing out warrants and thing of                                                               
that nature."   In response  to Co-Chair Drummond,  she confirmed                                                               
that "warrant" means a check.                                                                                                   
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND echoed  a previously  stated concern  that the                                                               
commissioner had not been available  for many hearings, including                                                               
this one.                                                                                                                       
8:49:37 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND  opened  public  testimony  on  HB  60.    She                                                               
announced that  there would be  a time  limit of two  minutes per                                                               
8:50:22 AM                                                                                                                    
FAITH MYERS  said she is  a senior, a volunteer  senior advocate,                                                               
and is  testifying in opposition to  HB 60.  She  opined that the                                                               
state senior benefit program should  not be discontinued, because                                                               
senior  benefits are  means-tested.   The majority  of recipients                                                               
are  listed  at or  below  the  poverty  level  and some  have  a                                                               
disability.  She  said she is a recipient of  senior benefits who                                                               
has a  disability and lives at  the poverty level.   She asserted                                                               
that here  is a connection  between being  able to pay  bills and                                                               
mental health.   Ms. Myers shared  that she receives only  $931 a                                                               
month  from  Social Security;  the  Adult  Public Assistance  and                                                               
Senior Benefits Program  have to supplement that  amount, but she                                                               
does not  receive a total  that is  much higher than  the poverty                                                               
level of income.  She said  she is dependent upon senior benefits                                                               
to  pay  her bills.    She  stated that  as  long  as the  Senior                                                               
Benefits Program  is means-tested, it  should be continued.   She                                                               
reemphasized that she does not support the passage of HB 60.                                                                    
8:52:19 AM                                                                                                                    
KEN  HELANDER,  Advocacy  Director,  AARP  Alaska,  testified  in                                                               
opposition to HB 60.  He  relayed that his comments are a follow-                                                               
up to an  op-ed that was published in the  Anchorage Daily News a                                                             
few weeks ago, which further spells  out what the impact would be                                                               
of  the proposed  repeal of  the  Senior Benefits  Program.   Mr.                                                               
Helander  stated  that  about four  years  ago,  the  legislature                                                               
reduced the budget for senior  benefits, resulting in the loss of                                                               
approximately $49 a month for  beneficiaries in the higher income                                                               
tier, from  $125 to $76 a  month, which represents nearly  $600 a                                                               
year  lost to  those  beneficiaries.   He  said  the AARP  Alaska                                                               
office started  receiving phone calls from  panicked seniors, who                                                               
"were fearful of what that loss  would mean to their lives."  Mr.                                                               
Helander said he has never  forgotten those calls; they motivated                                                               
him  to  advocate for  senior  benefits.    He related  that  two                                                               
summers  ago,  as   the  Senior  Benefits  Program   was  up  for                                                               
reauthorization,     Representative     Spohnholz    and     then                                                               
Representative  Kawasaki held  an informal  listening session  on                                                               
behalf  of   the  House  Health  and   Social  Services  Standing                                                               
Committee, and  in over three  hours, more than 50  people called                                                               
in  from  around Alaska  to  describe  what the  Senior  Benefits                                                               
Program means to them.  He  said his "takeaway" from listening to                                                               
those comments was that "this money,  as small of an amount as it                                                               
is, is used by each recipient  within their own life situation to                                                               
help  them live  independently,  with purpose,  to help  maintain                                                               
their  health,  and  ultimately  to  make  a  difference  in  the                                                               
community of people around them."                                                                                               
MR. HELANDER shared  that one woman called to say  that her $76 a                                                               
month allowed her  to keep her car running, and  she was the only                                                               
one in her circle  of friends who still had a  car, and with that                                                               
car she  could meet the  transportation needs of herself  and her                                                               
friends.   He said, "In  fact, she was the  transportation system                                                               
for her  individual community."   Mr. Helander said  other people                                                               
shared stories  reflecting each person's determination  "not just                                                               
to  get  a   pittance  of  support  from  the   state,  but  more                                                               
importantly  to always  try to  be a  help to  the people  around                                                               
them."  He  emphasized the importance of that one  woman's car in                                                               
helping  others to  access groceries  and care.   He  said, "This                                                               
isn't  about a  handout; it's  about  an investment.   It  allows                                                               
older, albeit materially  poor Alaskans to prevent  being poor in                                                               
spirit."   He  indicated  that these  seniors  would become  more                                                               
expensive  if  they  could  no  longer  be  on  their  own.    He                                                               
concluded,  "The Senior  Benefits Program  is an  investment with                                                               
great return that  we should carefully protect,  because the cost                                                               
of losing it would be ever so much greater."                                                                                    
8:56:03 AM                                                                                                                    
MARY GEDDES stated that she has  been an Alaskan for 35 years and                                                               
is testifying  in opposition  to HB  60.   She stated  her belief                                                               
that  the  Senior  Benefits  Program,  which  provides  financial                                                               
support to eligible elders, is  "a crucial, needs-based source of                                                               
support  for  many  individuals  with  chronic  health  problems,                                                               
mental illness, dementia, and other  disabilities."  She said the                                                               
solution to Alaska's  budget situation cannot be  "to kick 11,000                                                               
low-income seniors to the proverbial curb."                                                                                     
8:56:55 AM                                                                                                                    
LAURA  BONNER told  the committee  that  she is  retired and  has                                                               
lived in  Alaska since 1972.   She  said stated opposition  to HB
60.  She  relayed that she has been fortunate  to never have been                                                               
eligible  for  the program,  but  [cutting]  the Senior  Benefits                                                               
Program  would cause  those vulnerable  seniors  to fall  further                                                               
into poverty.   She  said many  of those  seniors are  women, who                                                               
worked low-paying  jobs without social security,  left employment                                                               
early,  or  never had  the  opportunity  to make  money,  perhaps                                                               
because  they  were taking  care  of  a  loved  one.   She  asked                                                               
committee members  to consider whether  they could live  on under                                                               
$1,000 per month,  especially if battling a  chronic illness, and                                                               
what they would choose to  pay for:  lifesaving medication, food,                                                               
heat, or  transportation to health  care.  She  said malnutrition                                                               
is  common  in  some  senior  populations.    She  stated,  "It's                                                               
unconscionable to  eliminate this  and other programs  that serve                                                               
the vulnerable  and pay tax  credits to the  wealthy corporations                                                               
in the world.   She said there has been  little analysis, and she                                                               
offered her understanding  that the person who  had presented the                                                               
bill the committee  had said [the Senior  Benefits Program] would                                                               
be one of the easiest to cut.   She urged the committee to "kill"                                                               
HB 60 because "it's bad for Alaska."                                                                                            
8:58:41 AM                                                                                                                    
ROBERTA STEVENS stated that although  she does not receive senior                                                               
benefits, she is aware of many  friends and neighbors that do and                                                               
are  thus   being  saved  from  possible   homelessness  and  the                                                               
inability to  pay for medicine.   She said it is  frightening for                                                               
people who  are unable  to work,  due to health  or age,  to have                                                               
"this small amount of money taken  away from them entirely."  She                                                               
said this  would take away  their independence, and she  does not                                                               
know where these folks would go  when they lose their homes.  She                                                               
stated  her opposition  to  HB 60,  and she  said  she hopes  the                                                               
committee  will "kill  the bill  quickly and  put it  out of  its                                                               
8:59:55 AM                                                                                                                    
KEREN  KELLEY, Homer  Senior Citizens,  Inc.,  said Homer  Senior                                                               
Citizens, Inc. has  450 members in the Homer area.   She said the                                                               
proposed  legislation  would  affect   "the  great  pioneers  and                                                               
buildings of our state."   She opined that not supporting seniors                                                               
during  their   vulnerable  times   is  both   disrespectful  and                                                               
irresponsible.   She  said most  seniors, without  their benefit,                                                               
would have to  reduce their spending on food,  housing, heat, and                                                               
medications.  She  surmised that it is more  likely seniors would                                                               
reduce  their intake  of  food.   She  said  the  lack of  proper                                                               
nutrition  directly correlates  with higher  medical costs.   She                                                               
related  that the  average senior  is 75  years of  age, is  on a                                                               
limited income,  and often  has chronic  health conditions.   Ms.                                                               
Kelley reiterated  that seniors built  the state that  others get                                                               
to enjoy.                                                                                                                       
9:01:28 AM                                                                                                                    
JIM  HORNADAY  stated  that  although he  serves  on  the  Senior                                                               
Citizen  Board, he  was  testifying  on behalf  of  himself.   He                                                               
stated  opposition to  the removal  of  senior citizen  benefits,                                                               
because "these  are the most  needy people  in Alaska."   He said                                                               
[HB 60] would  cause a number of seniors to  miss meals, which he                                                               
advised against.   He asked the committee  to consider additional                                                               
revenues, in addition to [the proposed cuts].                                                                                   
9:02:24 AM                                                                                                                    
DALBERT PUNGOWIYI,  President, Native Council of  Savoonga, spoke                                                               
on  behalf of  elders  in Savoonga  and the  rest  of the  state,                                                               
especially those in remote communities,  where the cost of living                                                               
is astronomical, and elders depend  upon their benefits.  He said                                                               
seniors "carried us  through our hardest times in  the past," and                                                               
"thanks to them we're all here."   He said we must not forget the                                                               
hard work  our elders did, and  we must pay our  respect to them.                                                               
He asked  the committee, on  behalf of those seniors,  to [oppose                                                               
HB 60].                                                                                                                         
9:04:25 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID  BLACKETER,  Immediate  Past Chair,  Alaska  Commission  on                                                               
Aging, first  testified on his  own behalf.   He stated he  is 83                                                               
and his  wife is  79, and  they live on  his social  security; at                                                               
tier 3, they each receive $76 a  month.  He said this is helpful,                                                               
but the  reduction from $125 to  $76 a couple years  ago required                                                               
them to tighten their belts even  more than they already had.  He                                                               
said rent  is due on the  first of the month  and social security                                                               
comes on the third of the month.   The budget must also cover car                                                               
repair so that he and his wife  can shop for groceries and get to                                                               
their  medical appointments.   Mr.  Blacketer said  he would  now                                                               
speak as  the immediate  past chair of  the Alaska  Commission on                                                               
Aging.  He stated that the  commission wants to "kill or put down                                                               
this bill,  HB 60."   [This portion of Mr.  Blacketer's testimony                                                               
was indiscernible due to technical  difficulties.]  Mr. Blacketer                                                               
surmised that not only he and  his wife, but also those receiving                                                               
senior benefits  and those who may  need them, would not  want HB
60 to be passed out of committee.                                                                                               
9:07:02 AM                                                                                                                    
DAVID OTNESS,  as a 12-year  resident of Cordova and  overall 68-                                                               
year resident  of Alaska, third  generation, said he  has watched                                                               
the  change of  society from  territorial  days to  present.   He                                                               
remarked his  amazement to find  out there are only  three people                                                               
who work to  process the 11-12,000 applications.   He stated that                                                               
Alaska has "revenue  in abundance," and he  mentioned Senate Bill                                                               
21  [passed during  the Twenty-Eighth  Alaska State  Legislature]                                                               
"for a million barrels a day"  and "its ongoing oil tax credits."                                                               
He said,  "It's such  a huge  slap in the  face to  Alaskans that                                                               
this governor would choose to  reward stockholders, largely hedge                                                               
fund back  east and worldwide,  rather than to allow  Alaskans to                                                               
maintain themselves  in dignity in  their final years."   He said                                                               
Senate  Bill 21  brought Alaska  "right to  this brink"  and "now                                                               
they're coming for more."                                                                                                       
MR. OTNESS talked  about the disparity of buying  power with food                                                               
stamps in  rural communities compared  to urban.   He recommended                                                               
people  read an  editorial  in the  4/3/19  Juneau Empire,  which                                                             
"might give  a better overview in  exactly where we are  and what                                                               
this governor is trying to do to  us as a state."  He recommended                                                               
understanding the  Constitution of the  State of Alaska  and "how                                                               
it works for our benefit and not private corporation."                                                                          
9:10:01 AM                                                                                                                    
MIKE COONS,  President, Association  of Mature  American Citizens                                                               
(AMAC)  - Greater  Alaska Chapter;  Public Member,  Commission on                                                               
Aging,  testifying  in  both capacities  and  as  a  conservative                                                               
Alaskan,  stated  that "the  Commission  on  Aging has  voted  to                                                               
opposed  HB   60,"  and  although  he   initially  abstained,  he                                                               
reluctantly voted in  opposition to the bill.   He explained that                                                               
he is  a strong supporter of  Governor Dunleavy.  He  said a poll                                                               
of  AMAC  members  showed  strong  support  for  HB  60  and  the                                                               
governor.   He stated  he is  now fully in  support of  the bill.                                                               
Mr.  Coons  opined  that the  current  House  Majority  Coalition                                                               
supports "big government."  He  talked about the budget decisions                                                               
of the past.   He opined, "This opposition to HB  60 is a full-on                                                               
political assault using  all tactics, fears, and lies."   He said                                                               
the  truth  is  that  the governor's  budget  will  put  Alaska's                                                               
financial house  in order,  and seniors will  get more  per month                                                               
from  the permanent  fund dividend  than they  do currently.   He                                                               
indicated that  the governor's budget  would bring the  state out                                                               
of a four-year  recession he said was created  by the legislature                                                               
and a former governor.                                                                                                          
9:12:30 AM                                                                                                                    
PATRICK  CURTIS,  Program  Director,  Anchorage  Senior  Activity                                                               
Center, stated  that adjectives such as  "vulnerable" and "vital"                                                               
do not convey  the stories people share in person.   He indicated                                                               
that seniors' faces  show the physical and  emotional stresses of                                                               
poverty and  hardship anticipated by  the proposed cut  to senior                                                               
benefits.  He said there is  a need to address budget issues, but                                                               
HB  60  would be  "one  of  the wrong  choices."    He urged  the                                                               
committee to  reject the proposed  legislation and  support those                                                               
folks who founded Alaska.                                                                                                       
9:13:21 AM                                                                                                                    
ANNE  DOERPINGHAUS  shared that  she  has  been  a nurse  in  her                                                               
community for  26 years,  12 of  which she  spent in  elder care.                                                               
She now works  with vulnerable children and families  in times of                                                               
crisis.    She  stated  that   seniors  are  major  supports  for                                                               
families,  because   they  provide   shelter  for   children  and                                                               
grandchildren when  jobs and relationships  change, they  take in                                                               
and feed grandchildren in times of  trouble.  She said many times                                                               
elders help  family members through  illnesses - even more  so in                                                               
rural communities.   She  said she knows  elders are  fragile and                                                               
living on low budgets, but "they  are the positive engines of our                                                               
economy."  To  those who do not like "big  government," she said,                                                               
"The alternative  to government  is a  living wage  for families,                                                               
supports for seniors, so that we  can, in fact, be there for each                                                               
other."   She shared  her experience has  shown that  many elders                                                               
put their families  first and never say no to  providing food and                                                               
shelter.  She asked the committee to oppose HB 60.                                                                              
9:15:06 AM                                                                                                                    
JONATHAN STRONG,  Senior Citizens  of Kodiak,  shared how  he had                                                               
helped a  65-year-old senior with  disabilities apply  for senior                                                               
benefits for the first time.   Without those benefits, the person                                                               
could not afford  basic personal needs and had not  had a haircut                                                               
in several  years.  He said  on behalf of this  person and Senior                                                               
Citizens of Kodiak, he opposed HB 60.                                                                                           
9:16:05 AM                                                                                                                    
KAREN  CAMERON stated  that she  receives  $76 a  month from  the                                                               
Senior Benefits  Program.   She is  a fourth  generation Alaskan,                                                               
who has worked  hard all her life.   She said she  was a regional                                                               
administrator  for 20  years in  Los Angeles  County, making  six                                                               
figures.   She  became  ill a  few years  ago,  and the  expenses                                                               
involved with  her illness lead to  the loss of her  savings, her                                                               
investments, and  her home.   She said she  is no longer  able to                                                               
work, and the  $76 [a month in senior benefits]  is a lifeline to                                                               
her.  She said she feels  gratitude for that money, but even with                                                               
that benefit,  she has not  been able  to pay for  her medication                                                               
for the  past couple  of years.   She indicated  that she  is $25                                                               
over the  limit for receiving  Medicaid.  Ms. Cameron  said right                                                               
now she has nothing  to eat but top ramen for  another week and a                                                               
half.  She said she cannot  afford to go to the senior activities                                                               
center.   She gave up  her dog, because  she could not  afford to                                                               
care for  it.  She stated  that she lives with  approximately 400                                                               
other seniors, half  of whom receive a bonus, and  she said it is                                                               
tragic  to see  what these  seniors go  without.   Even so,  they                                                               
share as  much as they  can.  She  said, "When I  started hearing                                                               
that the governor was going to  cut this out -- people just don't                                                               
come out of their rooms anymore."                                                                                               
9:18:58 AM                                                                                                                    
GORDON GLASER,  Anchorage Senior  Activities Center,  stated that                                                               
although  the   center  has  not  presently   taken  an  official                                                               
position, it is circulating "a  letter of support opposing repeal                                                               
of  Senate Bill  60  [passed during  the  Thirtieth Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature] repealing the Senior  Benefits Program."  Mr. Glaser                                                               
stated that there  are other sources of support  for the elderly,                                                               
but  at the  center about  70 percent  of participants  pay on  a                                                               
sliding  scale  because  they  are   below  the  federal  poverty                                                               
guidelines.  He  said, "Those people don't  have another source."                                                               
In terms  of planning and  direction, he stated, "When  you're at                                                               
the bottom of the hole, the best  policy is to stop digging."  He                                                               
opined that  before reducing  the resources  of "those  people on                                                               
the edge,"  it is important  to understand what  the consequences                                                               
of that  action will be.   He  concluded, "Moving blindly  is not                                                               
good public policy."                                                                                                            
9:21:05 AM                                                                                                                    
GEORGE  PIERCE observed  that there  were sad  people testifying.                                                               
He stated opposition to HB 60,  which he called sad and shameful.                                                               
He said  it is the job  of the legislature to  protect the people                                                               
of Alaska.   He said reducing senior benefit  payments will drive                                                               
seniors onto  welfare.  He said  he has lived [in  Alaska] for 30                                                               
years and  spent all  his money  here.   He said  senior benefits                                                               
help  with  food  and  medication.   He  advised,  "Stop  funding                                                               
nonprofits and go  after the oil taxes and  cut their subsidies."                                                               
He said  the permanent fund dividend  that was taken was  bad for                                                               
seniors.  He opined, "It's the  lowest you can go taking from the                                                               
poor and  needy."  He  questioned giving billions in  oil revenue                                                               
incentives but  not giving  a couple  million to  seniors through                                                               
benefits.  He  called this "sad and shameful."   He asked, "These                                                               
people are  already in poverty.   Why would you hurt  them more?"                                                               
He asked the committee to do the  right thing by putting HB 60 in                                                               
the trash.  He indicated that  Alaska ranks fourth in the country                                                               
for millionaires, so that is who should be taxed - not the poor.                                                                
9:23:03 AM                                                                                                                    
IDA NELSON testified  in opposition to HB 60 and  taking away the                                                               
lifeline of seniors.   She said she helps elders  in her village,                                                               
and with  their benefits they  are able  to pay for  heating oil,                                                               
food,  and   living  independently.     They  would   lose  their                                                               
independence under HB 60.                                                                                                       
9:24:02 AM                                                                                                                    
PAUL SHERRY said  he is a retired health  care administrator, who                                                               
opposes HB 60.  He said  he supports the Senior Benefits Program.                                                               
He  said there  are  demands  not met  by  the  state or  federal                                                               
government that  other agencies  are struggling  to address.   He                                                               
said  many of  the  seniors he  works with  are  making $1,300  a                                                               
month, perhaps $16,000  a year, while many  of the administrators                                                               
make ten times that amount.   He said it is discouraging that the                                                               
focus  is  being put  on  seniors  and  students when  trying  to                                                               
balance the  state budget.   He stated  that for many  seniors, a                                                               
benefit of $175 a month is  15 percent of their income and living                                                               
without  would  mean  figuring  out  how  to  cut  expenses  even                                                               
further.  He  expressed support for the  Senior Benefits Program.                                                               
He said,  "Another $1,500 in  dividends doesn't offset  $2,100 in                                                               
senior benefits."   He said  there is revenue available  to cover                                                               
these benefits.   He  stated, "You  just have  to right  the ship                                                               
that the new governor has tipped on its side."                                                                                  
9:26:35 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  KREISS-TOMKINS stated  that  the proposed  budget                                                               
cut angers him,  and the proposal itself  he finds unconscionable                                                               
because  of  the  amount  of uncertainty  and  stress  it  causes                                                               
Alaska's  most  vulnerable.   He  mentioned  the  proposed  price                                                               
increase on  the Pioneer Home  cost, and  he said he  knows there                                                               
are residents there who have stopped  eating due to the amount of                                                               
stress this  has caused.   Anecdotes have  been heard  around the                                                               
state  regarding   the  stress  people  are   experiencing.    He                                                               
concluded, "Even though it will not  pass the legislature - I can                                                               
state that  as a fact  - I don't  know what the  governor's line-                                                               
item veto  pen will  do -  that's between him  and Alaska;  but I                                                               
think   even    putting   this   forward   is    deeply,   deeply                                                               
9:27:48 AM                                                                                                                    
JO  KENNEDY asked  the committee  to  "look harder  at the  Adult                                                               
Public  Assistance program,"  which  she said  is  open to  "just                                                               
about  anybody."    She  said  she has  witnessed  abuse  in  the                                                               
program.  She  emphasized that she is against getting  rid of the                                                               
program,  because "a  nation or  state that  forgets its  seniors                                                               
will soon be  forgotten itself."  She  expressed appreciation for                                                               
living in  a country where  she has  the right to  [testify], and                                                               
she urged the committee not to pass HB 60.                                                                                      
9:28:59 AM                                                                                                                    
NIKKI   POLLOCK,   Director,   Senior  Services,   testified   in                                                               
opposition to HB  60.  She said Senior Services  in Bethel serves                                                               
approximately 117 elders  Monday through Friday; in  the past six                                                               
months, Senior  Services has helped 42  elders "with information,                                                               
assistance, and referral."  She  said many elders are referred to                                                               
[the  Adult Public  Assistance  program] to  sign  up for  senior                                                               
benefits.  She said she  knows firsthand the importance of senior                                                               
benefits to  elders in paying  for their  most basic needs.   She                                                               
said  in Bethel,  the cost  of water  is approximately  $9.50 per                                                               
gallon.   She said  without the senior  benefits, she  knows many                                                               
elders  would go  hungry, would  not have  the funds  to pay  for                                                               
water, sewer,  or electricity, and would  have exacerbated health                                                               
issues.   She emphasized that  the Senior Benefits Program  is of                                                               
the  utmost importance  and "we  must take  care of  our elders."                                                               
She  mentioned "what  they've done  to get  to become  elders" as                                                               
being  a  reason  that  "we  need to  be  able  to  support  them                                                               
financially."    She  said  she  has spoken  in  support  of  the                                                               
benefits  program  in  the  past, and  she  knows  firsthand  the                                                               
positive  impact the  program has  on elders,  and she  indicated                                                               
that one of the impacts  is in preventing "premature or permanent                                                               
institutionalization" in  long-term care facilities.   She opined                                                               
that  doing away  with the  Senior  Benefits Program  is not  the                                                               
right thing to do.                                                                                                              
9:31:57 AM                                                                                                                    
MATT DONAHOE said  he has been a resident of  Alaska for 46 years                                                               
and has been  a small boat fisherman for 40  years.  He mentioned                                                               
the raw fish  tax being taken away from communities,  and he said                                                               
he has  never filed  for any public  assistance until  last year,                                                               
when he applied  for senior benefits.  He said  he had planned on                                                               
fishing  to  fund  his  retirement  but  indicated  that  fishing                                                               
policies made by the state may  have affected that plan.  He said                                                               
he knows  quite a few fishermen  who have applied for  the senior                                                               
benefit.  He  stated opposition to HB 60, and  he related that he                                                               
has heard some tragic stories.                                                                                                  
9:34:27 AM                                                                                                                    
JAYME  ANDREAN, Volunteer,  AARP;  Chair,  Juneau AARP  Community                                                               
Action Team,  stated that the  focus is  to allow seniors  to age                                                               
with  "the  highest  quality  of   life"  and  "lowest  level  of                                                               
expense."   She  explained,  "There's a  continuum  of care  that                                                               
takes place as  seniors age, and we can  keep people independent,                                                               
in their own  homes, ... [as long as possible],  with the highest                                                               
level of  quality of life, the  better off everybody is."   Doing                                                               
so saves  money, because it  is more expensive to  enter assisted                                                               
living and "nursing care."                                                                                                      
9:35:40 AM                                                                                                                    
DENICE DAIELLA, Executive Director,  Alaskan Commission on Aging,                                                               
explained  that  the  commission is  a  governor-appointed  board                                                               
under  the  Department  of  Health  and  Social  Services.    The                                                               
commission plans  services for  seniors, educates  Alaskans about                                                               
senior  issues,  and  makes   recommendations  to  policy  makers                                                               
regarding  the  needs of  seniors.    She  said, "So,  our  views                                                               
represent those  of the commission  and not necessarily  those of                                                               
the  administration."     She  noted  that   the  commission  had                                                               
submitted  written testimony  to  the committee.    She said  the                                                               
commission does not support passage of  HB 60.  She said a survey                                                               
conducted by  the commission found  that concern  about financial                                                               
security was  the number  two issue  of the  3,117 people  55 and                                                               
older  who  completed  the  survey   statewide.    She  said  the                                                               
commission  has supported  the Senior  Benefits Program  over the                                                               
years,  as well  as its  reauthorization.   She related  that the                                                               
commission  believes  the program  "is  good  public policy  that                                                               
helps people to  afford ... their basic essentials."   She added,                                                               
"It helps to support their  dignity, self-determination, and - in                                                               
the long run - saves money  in terms of health care and long-term                                                               
care costs."   She thanked  the committee for the  opportunity to                                                               
testify on behalf of many  people that believe senior benefits is                                                               
a good program.                                                                                                                 
9:37:45 AM                                                                                                                    
ERIN  WALKEN  TOLLES,   Executive  Director,  Catholic  Community                                                               
Services  (CCS), informed  the  committee that  CCS  is a  faith-                                                               
based, regional  non-profit entity serving Southeast  Alaska with                                                               
health care  and social  services.   She said  CCS has  11 senior                                                               
centers and  serves over 3,000 yearly  with meals, transportation                                                               
service, and  case management, and  a variety of  other services.                                                               
She  shared that  in  her  recent travels  to  senior centers  in                                                               
Sitka, Ketchikan, and Juneau, she  has heard from seniors who are                                                               
"distraught" and "terrified."  She  said a number of seniors have                                                               
told her  that already they  do not have  the money to  buy meat;                                                               
the only  meat they eat  is provided by  the senior center.   She                                                               
indicated  that without  their benefit,  those seniors  have said                                                               
they would  not be able to  afford food at all  and are concerned                                                               
about homelessness.  Ms. Tolles  said she understands the need to                                                               
balance the budget,  but thinks creativity is needed,  as well as                                                               
discussion about the PFD.  She opined:                                                                                          
     Not only is  it morally wrong to balance  the budget on                                                                    
     the backs  of the  most vulnerable in  our communities,                                                                    
     but also,  when you think  long term, we're  only going                                                                    
     to  see savings  for  a short  time,  as these  seniors                                                                    
     decline   -  due   to  poor   ...  nutrition,   due  to                                                                    
     homelessness,  due  to lack  of  being  able to  afford                                                                    
     medication and  heat -  and we're  going to  have those                                                                    
     expenses transferred to our health  care and our social                                                                    
     services within the  next couple of years.   You're not                                                                    
     going  to  see  cost   savings;  you're  not  going  to                                                                    
     accomplish  what you  want; you're  only going  to hurt                                                                    
     people if this goes forward.                                                                                               
MS. TOLLES emphasized her opposition  to HB 60 and encouraged the                                                               
committee to  adopt long-term  thinking in  terms of  the state's                                                               
vulnerable citizens and social and healthcare systems.                                                                          
9:39:55 AM                                                                                                                    
CAROLINE  DEMMERT  said  she  was  "speaking for  a  lot  of  our                                                               
people."   She said her  grandmother and mother  collected senior                                                               
benefits.   She returned to  Alaska because she thought  it would                                                               
help her  to receive her benefits.   She said there  are many for                                                               
whom these benefits provide the only  hot meal they can get.  She                                                               
said  she is  a Tlingit,  who has  lived in  Ketchikan, Wrangell,                                                               
Juneau, Hoonah, and  Kake, Alaska, and has observed  that many do                                                               
not  get benefits  because they  do not  qualify for  them.   She                                                               
indicated that it is just a  matter of making one dollar over the                                                               
limit  to be  disqualified.   She said  she worked  four jobs  in                                                               
order to raise  her four children.  She stated  that she does not                                                               
discriminate  against  anyone  in terms  of  receiving  benefits,                                                               
because "we do  have this extra money," which she  said she calls                                                               
"our old lady  benefits."  She said the benefits  are used to buy                                                               
food, and by the end of the  month, many people do not have food.                                                               
She said  too many benefits  are being  taken away.   Many people                                                               
are still alive because of  the benefits; they help everyone take                                                               
care of  each other.  She  asked, "Once we're given  something to                                                               
live on, why take  it away?  I would like to see  any of you live                                                               
here on  a thousand  dollars a  month and pay  your rent  and all                                                               
your utilities."   She said  people are  tired of trying  to live                                                               
off spare change.   She concluded, "We keep our  change jars that                                                               
we might need a loaf of bread."                                                                                                 
9:42:40 AM                                                                                                                    
ANN STEPETIN,  Elderly Services, Central Council  Tlingit & Haida                                                               
Indian  Tribes of  Alaska  ("Tlingit &  Haida"),  pointed to  her                                                               
elders in  the room  and said  she was blessed  to be  there with                                                               
them.    Ms. Stepetin  tearfully  related  that Elderly  Services                                                               
serves a lunch  on the last Thursday of each  month, and an elder                                                               
told her  that by the end  of the month  he has no money  to feed                                                               
himself  and was  so appreciative  to  have found  out about  the                                                               
lunch served at  Tlingit & Haida.  She relayed  that in her work,                                                               
she sees  elders who  must give up  food for a  week in  order to                                                               
afford medicine when needed.  She  said she is there to "hold up"                                                               
her elders,  and sometimes  that means paying  for things  out of                                                               
her  own pockets.    She  said Tlingit  &  Haida  is looking  for                                                               
alternative  ways to  help its  elders because  of "these  things                                                               
that  are coming  down  from  the state."    Ms. Stepetin  stated                                                               
opposition for HB 60.   She indicated that [senior benefits] feed                                                               
people and  keep them from being  homeless.  She said  she serves                                                               
those in  Juneau but related a  time when an elder  in Washington                                                               
state went  without food for  a week because  of a holdup  in the                                                               
finance department  that made  it impossible to  get food  to the                                                               
9:45:15 AM                                                                                                                    
BARBARA BOLTON  said she is a  senior who has lived  in Anchorage                                                               
for 12 years.  She said she  loves the state and has made friends                                                               
through the  senior programs.   She stated  her opposition  to HB
60.   She  said, like  other seniors  her age,  she lives  at the                                                               
poverty level.  She  said $76 is not a gift; it  is the means for                                                               
food, transportation, and medication for seniors.                                                                               
9:46:54 AM                                                                                                                    
MARY ALICE KNOTTS  recalled working hard in the 1970s  as part of                                                               
a  committee that  fought to  get a  facility built  for seniors.                                                               
Seniors  were  leaving Alaska,  and  the  efforts were  made  "to                                                               
maintain  and  improve senior  benefits"  so  that seniors  could                                                               
choose to  stay in  Alaska.   She related that  she had  to leave                                                               
Alaska for  a while for  medical reasons.   She stated,  "To hear                                                               
that  we  are still  battling  the  people  with money  in  their                                                               
pockets to keep  our seniors fed and housed is  bad indeed."  She                                                               
questioned what  kind of drugs  the governor and  legislature are                                                               
"on" and suggested  those pills should be shared  with seniors so                                                               
"we  don't care  what  happens  to people  either."   Ms.  Knotts                                                               
emphasized her  opposition to HB 60  and said the bill  "needs to                                                               
be cremated immediately."                                                                                                       
9:48:51 AM                                                                                                                    
INDIANNA TURKISHER, Manager,  Food Bank of Alaska,  said the food                                                               
bank helps people apply for benefits,  and one of those is senior                                                               
benefits.  She  said seniors tell her they use  their benefits to                                                               
pay  for   food,  medication,   and  transportation   to  medical                                                               
appointments.  The threat of  the benefits being cut means access                                                               
to  those things  will  be reduced.   She  said  her mother  will                                                               
qualify  for the  Senior  Benefits  Program in  two  years.   Ms.                                                               
Turkisher shared  that as a  sixth-generation Alaskan,  she would                                                               
like to be able  to stay in Alaska for the  duration of her life;                                                               
however, when she sees "how  we prioritize seniors right now," it                                                               
makes her question  whether Alaska is a place in  which she wants                                                               
to stay.                                                                                                                        
9:50:28 AM                                                                                                                    
TERESA  MCLAIN stated  that she  lives  in a  large community  of                                                               
senior  and disabled  people in  Anchorage.   She emphasized  how                                                               
upset  she  was by  the  proposed  cuts  to senior  benefits  and                                                               
indicated  [those cuts]  would put  her health  at "grave  risk."                                                               
She related that she comes  from a career military family wherein                                                               
service to the  country is valued.  She said  she has contributed                                                               
to her family  and community - the latter of  which she described                                                               
as the world she has traveled.  She continued as follows:                                                                       
     I'm speaking to  you hungry because I  didn't have food                                                                    
     this morning.   Throughout my childhood  and adulthood,                                                                    
     I  have  contributed  to   my  community,  running  the                                                                    
     household,  taking  care of  my  brothers  and my  sick                                                                    
     mother while my career  military U.S. Marine father was                                                                    
     an  inspector general  of the  Pacific  Rim in  Vietnam                                                                    
     making sure  soldiers' weapons  were in  working order.                                                                    
     Due to  my father coming home  traumatized, I developed                                                                    
     PTSD myself, and that's why  I'm on disability.  Having                                                                    
     seen the  suffering of  war, I have  chosen to  live my                                                                    
     life in  the very  modest-means way, to  not be  one of                                                                    
     the greedy people taking resources from others.                                                                            
MS. MCLAIN  spoke of  values and apologized  when she  started to                                                               
cry.  She said she moved to  Alaska to be near her daughter, son-                                                               
in-law, and  grandchildren.  She said  as an elder she  has a lot                                                               
to  offer.   She  values education  and having  a  wide range  of                                                               
experience  to  offer  to  the community.    She  emphasized  her                                                               
opposition to  HB 60, saying  she feels it  is not a  creative or                                                               
resourceful way  "to use one  of Alaska's best resources  of wise                                                               
and experienced  people who have a  lot to offer in  guidance for                                                               
grandchildren and out adult children, as well."                                                                                 
9:53:41 AM                                                                                                                    
WILLIAM  HARRINGTON stated  that he  is 70  years old  and spends                                                               
$80,000 a  year helping to  support five grandchildren.   He said                                                               
he would  not qualify  for senior  benefits.   He stated  that he                                                               
feels strongly  that "those  in their last  years deserve  a full                                                               
stomach and  a safe accommodation."   He opined it is  a travesty                                                               
for  a  rich state  that  "has  wasted  hundreds of  millions  of                                                               
dollars on a pipe dream" to even  consider HB 60.  He pointed out                                                               
that he would  spend $800,000 in Alaska over the  next ten years,                                                               
but "you're not  making it very easy  for me to want  to stay and                                                               
spend  that money  here."   He indicated  that he  had talked  to                                                               
someone about  the uncertainty of the  state's future population,                                                               
suggesting  it could  be  anywhere from  600,000  to 800,000,  at                                                               
which point the person responded that maybe it would be 300,000.                                                                
9:54:51 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR DRUMMOND closed public testimony on HB 60.                                                                             
9:55:04 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE JACKSON  indicated that  seniors have led  the way                                                               
for "us all to be here today."   She said, "I don't believe we're                                                               
going  to  have  [homeless]  seniors or  hungry  seniors."    She                                                               
recalled  that  Representative  Kreiss-Tomkins had  said  he  was                                                               
appalled  by  HB  60.     She  noted  there  are  eight  freshman                                                               
legislators,  three  of which  sit  on  the House  Community  and                                                               
Regional  Affairs Standing  Committee.   She  said, "This  didn't                                                               
just happen in January.   What appalls me is we  did not have the                                                               
foresight to  prevent us  from being  where we  are today."   She                                                               
thanked those  who had testified.   She  said, "We love  you, and                                                               
everything's going to be okay."                                                                                                 
9:56:11 AM                                                                                                                    
CO-CHAIR  HANNAN  observed that  she  and  others were  emotional                                                               
about the  topic being  discussed.  She  expressed thanks  to all                                                               
those  who made  sacrifices in  order to  testify and  remind the                                                               
legislature that those  who receive the benefits  in question are                                                               
the most vulnerable of seniors.   She talked about the fractional                                                               
cost to the  state [in providing benefits].   She said recipients                                                               
spend  every  dollar  they  are   given  locally;  they  are  not                                                               
"snowbirding"  or  taking  vacations; they  are  "spending  their                                                               
money to  survey in Alaska."   Representative Hannan said  for 31                                                               
years,  Alaska  had  a  longevity  bonus  program  not  based  on                                                               
economic need, and in 1972  the state began providing services to                                                               
elders to help them be able to  remain in the state.  She pointed                                                               
out that was  "before we had large  piles of oil money."   In the                                                               
early  2000s, the  state  did  away with  that  program and  made                                                               
benefits needs-based, and she indicated  the benefits now [go to]                                                               
"people who are  at the margins of despair."   She noted that she                                                               
and Representative  Jackson had  been appointed  to serve  on the                                                               
state Suicide Council,  and she said people may  not realize that                                                               
there are two  groups that are at risk of  suicide:  young people                                                               
"struggling to  find their way in  the world" and "people  at the                                                               
end their lives  in their aging years" who end  their lives early                                                               
as a result  of isolation and hopelessness.  She  said she cannot                                                               
imagine how a senior, who  is currently receiving senior benefits                                                               
and  may be  planning to  move into  a Pioneer  Home, would  feel                                                               
about  [HB 60  and the  proposed changes  related to  the Pioneer                                                               
Home].  She continued as follows:                                                                                               
     And I feel  like ... they're being used  as a political                                                                    
     pawn, because  we know this  is not a program  that has                                                                    
     any  other funds;  it is  a program  Alaska set  out to                                                                    
     give to Alaskans.  There  [are] no federal receipts for                                                                    
     it; it is general  fund money; because Alaska committed                                                                    
     to  other Alaskans  that we  want  to be  able to  keep                                                                    
     people here  through their lifespans, not  just through                                                                    
     their economic  earning years.   And  if we  don't take                                                                    
     care of the most vulnerable  at the end of their years,                                                                    
     then we  have done  nothing as a  state to  deserve our                                                                    
     wealth.   I hope  that we do  not allow  this political                                                                    
     pawn to  go any  further and that  we can  assure these                                                                    
     seniors we  will make sure  that the  marginal economic                                                                    
     benefits we share with them is guaranteed.                                                                                 
9:59:29 AM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  THOMPSON  said he  hoped  he  had heard  Co-Chair                                                               
Drummond  previously state  that  when the  committee gavels  out                                                               
today, it would "put this bill to rest."                                                                                        
CO-CHAIR  DRUMMOND  answered  that  Representative  Thompson  had                                                               
heard correctly.   She emphasized that she did not  intend for HB
60 to  travel any further.   She said it would  have been helpful                                                               
to have heard from the  commissioner and the department regarding                                                               
the estimated cost  that would result from  removing "these funds                                                               
from these vulnerable  folks."  She predicted  it would [surpass]                                                               
"the $25 million that we're currently spending."                                                                                
[HB 60 was held over.]                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
HB081ver A.PDF HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Sponsor Statement 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Sectional Analysis 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081 Fiscal Note - DEC.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081 Supporting Document- Letter of Support Alcanna Inc 03.26.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- Alaska Dispatch News- Cordova Ban 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document - The Washington Post- Dead Whale 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081-Supporting Document- Forbes- US Cities to Ban Plastic Bags 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- UN Ocean Conference- Marine Pollution Facts 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- The New York Times- Sea of Trash 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- Petition from AYEA 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- Peninsula Clarion- Habit Change 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- NPR- Plastic Contaminating Seafood 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- NOAA- Marine Debris 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB081- Supporting Document- Marine Pollution Bulletin- Plastic and Plankton in North Pacific 3.19.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB060 Version A.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB060 Sponsor Statement (Transmittal Letter).pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB060 Fiscal Note DHSS-PAFS 2.20.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB060 Fiscal Note DHSS-SBPP 2.20.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB060 Senior Benefit Program Fact Sheet 2019.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB060 Senior Benefits Enrollment and Amounts by Benefit Tier December 2018.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
AARP Senior Benefits Fact Sheet.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB060 Senior Benefits Demographics by census area.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60
HB081 Supporting Document- Presentation 4.3.19.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 81
HB060 Opposition Letters.pdf HCRA 4/4/2019 8:00:00 AM
HB 60