FAIRBANKS, Alaska - We spent last week talking about many of the affects the new budget would have on both the State of Alaska and the community. There are a couple more cuts the Fairbanks Community has been talking about.
First, funding for the Senior Benefits Payment Program was completely removed under the Governor's vetoes. In total, Dunleavy cut over $116 million dollars from the state's Department of Health and Social Services. The senior's program accounted for $20 million dollars of that cut. According to the state's Department of Health and Social Services, this program gave citizens age 65 or older that have low to moderate income, monthly cash benefits. There were three tiers of payouts that recipients fell under depending on the income they had. Unlike other programs or organizations we have talked about, the senior program was cut immediately when the budget went into effect. That means, for the roughly 11,320 seniors enrolled in the program, they stopped receiving cash benefits as of July 1st. According to a press release on the health department's website, the program was eliminated to "contain costs and reduce dependence of individuals on state funds."
Another veto that Fairbanks citizens have expressed worry about, is the cut that affects the Fairbanks Youth Advocates. Fairbanks Representative Grier Hopkins expressed his concern over the youth shelter the organization runs during an interview earlier in the week.
"The average of a homeless person in the state of Alaska is under 10 years old," stated Rep. Hopkins. "If these budget vetoes go through, the only place in Fairbanks, The Door, would have to close. It would have to shut it's door. We wouldn't have any place for homeless youth to go."
The Door is the only shelter in Fairbanks for youth specifically. According to a press release from the organization, if the Governor's removal of the Basic Homeless Assistance Funding program stays in effect, then the shelter will have to shut down. Off of the budget cuts, the organization lost over $189 thousand dollars. The organization says that money funded 59% of their staffing. Because the service is licensed as a child care facility for homeless youth and youth in crisis, they do not have the option to down scale their services. That licensing states their services must be available 24-7. With such a large cut at one time, the organization fears they will not be able to meet the requirements of maintaining the shelter.
Members of the legislator have expressed that they will try to overturn the Governor's vetoes all at once. If that does not pass, they will begin looking at individual line items. According to Representative Bart LeBon, as of last Thursday, the legislator is 6 votes away from undoing the vetoes. The debate begins this Monday, July 8th.