JUNEAU (AP) -- The state will increase the amount it pays to assisted living homes for general relief senior citizens and people with disabilities under a bill passed by the House on Monday.
The rate paid to homes has increased by just $2.60 since 1983. Senate Bill 73 will increase the rate from $34.50 to $50 per day on Sept. 1. The rate will increase to $60 per day on July 1, 2001, and to $70 per day on July 1, 2002.
Passage of the bill has been the top legislative priority for sponsor Sen. Mike Miller, R-North Pole.
''I was certainly happy and I was happy with the increased rates,'' Miller said after the 37-0 House vote on the bill.
The Senate last month passed a rate increase to $42.25. Miller was confident that the House version will win approval.
''I don't expect any problem on our side concurring,'' Miller said.
The bill covers homes with 15 or fewer beds. Operators of the homes say they're a cost-effective alternative to institutional care that allows people to continue living in their own communities.
However, owners also contend they are seriously underpaid for taking care of the state's general relief clients.
A group that represents owners of assisted-living homes last year threatened to evict indigent clients because the Legislature did not increase rates.
The Alaska Caregivers Association, which represents 40 of the 90 homes in the state, relented after deciding that throwing out residents was not a viable option. However, group members pledged to stop taking new general relief clients.
A state survey released in 1998 concluded that assisted-living homes need a $70 daily rate to be viable.
Miller's bill carries a $1 million cost increase, paying for care of 120 Alaskans, for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and a $1.7 million increase for fiscal year 2002.
The cost will be partially offset by contributions from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority.
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