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EDITOR, Daily News:
As the Alaska Legislature debates how to resolve the amount and sustainability of the PFD, and what services should be funded and at what level, I pledge to continue caring for our children and our seniors. Legislators may disagree on many of the “hows,” but we should stand together in protecting our most vulnerable.
Earlier this week, it was announced that scholarship programs for post-secondary students are suspended. Gov. Dunleavy did an expansive sweep of our funding sources, including the Higher Education Investment Fund, which leaves the Alaska Performance Scholarship, the Alaska Education Grant, and the WWAMI (Medical) program unfunded. Students received notice that they will not be receiving their scholarship awards at this time. This is a travesty, not only for these individual students and their families, but for the future of Alaska’s education and economy.
Gov. Dunleavy’s vetoes also result in the elimination of the Senior Benefits Program and proposed massive rate increases to the Pioneer Homes. The Senior Benefits Program assists more than 11,000 elderly Alaskans by giving them between $75 and $250 per month to pay for basic needs. The Pioneer Home is a long-standing institution that provides housing and medical assistance to our aging population. Residents in the Pioneer Homes will now see a dramatic increase in rates, with the ultimate goal of phasing out the institution. These programs protect and provide for our seniors, many of whom have given decades of service and talent to our state and our economy, and some who have even helped establish our state.
I am frustrated with these injustices and am fighting to override these decisions. Our students and seniors are an integral part of Alaska, and they should not be sacrificed in an attempt to lessen our budget woes. I urge legislators to come together to protect all Alaskans. If you have any comments, please email me at Rep.Dan.Ortiz@AKLeg.gov.
REP. DAN ORTIZ
House District 36