Senior assistance program draws 11,000 applicants

Posted: Thursday, August 21, 2003

JUNEAU (AP) More senior citizens than expected applied for a new state program for low-income seniors.

The state Department of Health and Social Services has received about 11,000 applications for the $120 monthly payments, according to a news release. The administration had estimated 7,500 Alaskans 65 or older would apply for the program.

The larger-than-expected number of applicants means the $10 million the administration had planned to spend for the program will not be enough. But Gov. Frank Murkowski said the state will honor its commitment to those who applied.

The program was put in place after Murkowski vetoed funding for the Longevity Bonus Program, which had provided payments of up to $250 a month for senior citizens who were 65 by the end of 1996 when the state began phasing out the program. The last longevity bonus payments went out this month.

The new program is open to all senior citizens who meet low-income criteria. The payments are scheduled to go out monthly from September through June 2004.

The state had allocated $10 million for the program from a $25 million payment it received this summer from the federal government as part of a federal tax cut bill.

The state is in line to receive another $25 million in federal cash this fall. John Manly, a spokesman for Murkowski, said no decisions have been made, but it's possible some of that money could make up the shortfall in the senior assistance program.

The first month's payments will be mailed between Sept. 3 and Sept. 5 to eligible seniors who applied before Aug. 15. Those who applied after Aug. 15 will receive their September and October benefits in early October.

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