Alaska to suspend senior benefit payments for 2 months

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services will suspend two months of payments from the state's Senior Benefits Program, officials said.

    The May and June interruption of funds will affect 4,731 Alaska residents, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

    People who normally receive $76 per month should not expect May and June benefits due to "insufficient funding" of about $800,000, department officials said.

    Payments will resume at the start of the new fiscal year in July, officials said.

    The change will not affect monthly payments to 5,124 residents who receive $175 and 1,742 residents who receive $250, officials said.

    Under program regulations, the smallest payments are dropped first if the program runs out of money, the newspaper reported.

    Some people losing their payments may be eligible for increased assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, said Shawnda O'Brien, director of the state Division of Public Assistance.

    The $800,000 funding shortfall occurred in part because the department has reduced a backlog of applications, O'Brien said.

    Correcting the deficit would require legislative action or a transfer of funds from elsewhere within the state government, although that would require another program to have $800,000 in unused funds, O'Brien said.

    The action announced Thursday is separate from a proposal by Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy to eliminate the Senior Benefits Program, which pays "low to moderate income" Alaskans ages 65 or older, the newspaper reported.

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