Cuts to Alaska’s elderly funding was front-page news recently.
I figured it was fate when, on my first day on vacation in Alaska last week, the headline of the major newspaper talked about the elimination of senior benefits. Then, in the hotel lobby was a separate publication, Senior Voice, and a story about the ABCs of selecting an assisted living “home.” Let’s just say, I felt right at home.
That lead story told how more than 13,000 Alaskan seniors would be losing a monthly benefit check of just under $200, with the governor vetoing a plan to restore it with just three days’ notice. Sounds like chump change, until you consider that many of these people relied on that and a social security check of about $1,000 to live on.
The governor has to balance the budget, and to get there, cuts have to be made. I get that. The problem I have is that with the economy so strong, and unemployment so low, what is going to happen to all these state budgets when we have our first economic downturn in 10 years? I subsequently heard the governor reversed himself on this cut, but don’t hold me to it.
The senior population in Alaska has been growing by 5% annually since 2010, faster than any other state, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. That’s a problem if you are looking to cut funding today. The only good news with a recession is that the labor shortage could get some relief. But I fear we will be hearing more and more “Alaska” stories about benefit cuts just as the elderly population really starts to grow. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear of any real solutions.