NEWS: Alaskans with Disabilities and Seniors Asked to Weigh in on Harmful Budget Cuts

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Reps. Gara and Spohnholz Oppose Cuts that will Limit the Ability of Many Alaskans to Live Independently

March 16, 2016

Juneau – Two Democrats in the Alaska House of Representatives are sending a positive message to those who live with disabilities that will lose significant help under the budget passed last week.  Representatives Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) are encouraging Alaskans with disabilities and others to share their stories with lawmakers and to not give up hope that the harmful cuts, to help they rely on, can be reversed.

“These cuts are symptomatic of a budget that cuts beyond waste, and too far into the chances Alaskans have for opportunity and fairness.  I voted for $700 million in cuts last year and could support Governor Walker’s level of roughly $100 million in cuts, plus any more waste that can be found in the budget,” said Rep. Gara.  “But we should never turn a blind eye towards people who live with disabilities, those who are frail medically and need a hand, seniors who built this state, and children who deserve a quality education or a safe, loving home.” 

The FY 2017 operating budget passed last week by the Alaska House of Representatives cut $640,000 from grants that help Alaskans with disabilities live independently.  The budget also cut $370,000 from emergency housing to help seniors, Alaskans with disabilities, and others facing homelessness.  Both cuts were fought by the members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition during budget deliberations.

“I am keenly aware of our challenging budget situation, but balancing the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable residents is unacceptable,” said Rep. Spohnholz.  “It’s time to think about what kind of Alaska we want to have and how we are going to get it, not who we are willing to leave behind.”   

The House and Senate have passed two separate versions of the operating budget for FY 2017.  The budgets will be sent to a Conference Committee that will work out the differences. 

“That leaves time for citizens and legislators to come together across party lines to make sure we don’t harm opportunity,” said Rep. Gara.  “That should include the chance for Alaskans with disabling conditions to live independently and successfully.”

The $640,000 cut to Developmental Disabilities Grants will reduce the ability for Alaskans to purchase things like lifts so they can live in their own home or get into a shower.  The five percent cut will also negatively impact the ability of these Alaskans to live in quality community living arrangements or at home where a temporary caregiver is needed.

“Allowing seniors and those with disabilities the tools they need to live at home is a much better option than allowing irresponsible budget cuts to force someone into an institution,” said Rep. Spohnholz.  “Not only is it cheaper and more cost-effective to live at home, but it is more dignified.”

For more information, please contact Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.



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