Alaska governor halts assistance cuts for disabled, elderly

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska Alaska’s governor has ordered the suspension of parts of a plan to cut financial assistance for disabled and elderly Alaska residents, officials said.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy halted the planned state cuts to more than 19,000 recipients next year, The Anchorage Daily News reported Tuesday.

Beneficiaries of the Adult Public Assistance Program supporting needy aged, blind, and disabled residents were scheduled to lose up to 10% of their cash benefits starting Jan. 1, officials said.

The Department of Health and Social Services said in a written statement that the amount of the remaining cut will vary for each person.

“Some program recipients could still see an overall monetary reduction in their benefits compared to the previous calendar year as the state uses the new methodology to become compliant with (Medicaid) regulations,” department Press Secretary Clinton Bennett wrote. “If there is a reduction in benefits, the exact amount is not known and will need to be recalculated on a case-by-case basis.”

While some cuts were expected, the department said state budget cuts were compounded by a formula change ordered by federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials.

“Governor Dunleavy agreed the newly calculated benefit level was unacceptable with both changes put in place,” the health and social services department said.

The compounding effect happened after the state’s Division of Public Assistance began working on individual cases shortly before the changes were set to take place, the administration said.

“Part of the problem is the formula that was put forward, and that is why it is so complex,” said Ben Stevens, Dunleavy’s chief of staff.

Democratic state Rep. Ivy Spohnholz criticized Dunleavy for failing to address the issue earlier.

“He either knew what he was doing and went ahead anyway, which was malicious,” she said. “Or he was incompetent, in which case he shouldn’t be in the job.”

Spohnholz is a deputy treasurer of a campaign to recall Dunleavy from office.