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Emergency regulations give seniors another month of aid

Action gives state lawmakers more time to form plan

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The state's lowest-income seniors will continue to get cash assistance checks from the state in July under emergency regulations signed by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell on Monday evening, Gov. Sarah Palin announced Tuesday.

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The new regulations will mean 245 Juneau residents will be among 6,715 seniors who will continue to get checks in July.

That will give the Alaska Legislature time to hold a June 26 special session in Anchorage to approve a longer-term solution, said Meghan Stapleton, Palin's press secretary.

"Financial assistance for our seniors continues to be a priority for me," said Palin in a press release announcing the continuation. "I am hopeful that the Legislature will find an equitable solution when it reconvenes in a special session later this month."

Typical benefit checks are $120 a month and go to seniors with very low incomes.

The program fell victim to legislative infighting when the Senate approved a bill extending the life of the SeniorCare program, which was to expire June 30.

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives refused to renew the program unless the Longevity Bonus Program was removed from the books as well.

Opposition to killing the longevity bonus came mostly from Democrats but included some Republicans as well. That was despite the fact there was no money appropriated for the longevity bonus, and it hadn't been paid in years.

Democratic efforts to revive SeniorCare in the final days of the legislative session failed on party line votes.

After the legislative session ended in May, however, Palin and others criticized the House's inaction, and House Speaker John Harris agreed to hold a special session to revive the SeniorCare program.

The Department of Health and Social Services is sending letters to SeniorCare recipients explaining that the benefits will be extended. Seniors needing more information can call the Senior Information Hotline at (800) 478-6065, Stapleton said.

• Pat Forgey can be reached at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com or 523-2250.



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