Our Seniors fought for our statehood and helped build Alaska. Their wisdom enriches all of our lives. Over the past ten years, I have been honored to introduce and support many pieces of legislation that recognize the contributions made by our elders and provide them with the services they need and deserve.
Here are just a few examples:
- Introduced legislation (SB 183) to allow municipalities the option to prorate existing municipal property tax exemptions for seniors, as well as widows/widowers of a qualified senior or disabled Veteran, based on the date they turn 65.
- Passed/Co-sponsored a bill (HB 263) to extend the Senior Benefits Program through 2018. Under this program, up to $250 a month is provided to about 10,000 Alaskans 65 and older whose household income does not exceed 175% of the federal poverty guideline. This program provides Alaskan seniors on severely limited incomes the means to afford basic life necessities, such as food and housing.
- Passed/Co-sponsored legislation (HB 59) to create a statewide system to help find missing vulnerable adults, including those with dementia.
- Created a new grant program for senior citizen housing developments (HB 65).
- Passed/Co-sponsored legislation (HB 78) that will attract new doctors and other health care professionals to Alaska to ensure all Alaskans have quality access to healthcare, especially those who are currently underserved, including seniors.
- Passed a bill (HB 131) to develop long-range community and public transportation plans with input from seniors and other Alaskans who rely on public transit.
- Passed a resolution (HCR 3) to raise awareness about elder abuse and neglect.
- Strengthened laws against financial exploitation of the elderly and other vulnerable adults (SB 86).
Unfortunately, the Senior Benefits Program is one of several key budget items that has been on the chopping block the last couple of years. Since the budget debate began, I have offered amendments proposing hundreds of millions of dollars in alternative cuts which more than offsets funding for the Senior Benefits Program.
Over the years, I have also supported efforts to help seniors find suitable and affordable housing through Alaska’s Pioneer Homes and Senior Housing Development Grants. I have also supported the statewide public transit fund, knowing that seniors rely heavily on public transportation.
As one of the founders of the Muldoon Farmers Market that opened in summer of 2015, I have enjoyed the opportunity to help increase access to good, nutritious, locally-grown food in East Anchorage. To ensure all seniors had access to this resource, we made sure our produce vendors could accept Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) coupons. Through the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, eligible Alaskans 60 and over qualify for vouchers that can be used during the farmers market season to purchase Alaska-grown fruit, vegetables and herbs.