PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - With lawmakers gearing up for yet another round of budget talks in the state capitol later this month, Palmer residents gathered for a public meeting to urge legislators to support funding for Alaska’s Pioneer Homes.
The meeting was held at Saint Michael’s Catholic Church and was attended by Senator David Wilson (R-Wasilla) and Rep. Cathy Tilton (R-Wasilla). Rep. Delena Johnson (R-Palmer) also spoke via telephone.
A budget bill passed by the Senate in April of last year called for deep cuts to Pioneer Home funding. The proposal sparked a wave of concern from the public, and flat funding was eventually restored in the state operating budget that was later signed into law.
Eight months later, and some Palmer residents are still concerned the town’s Veterans and Pioneer Homes could be placed on the chopping block again in the future.
“One of my great concerns is that the Pioneer Home and some other key critical infrastructural aspects of our society become a political football when it comes to funding time,” said Harry Moore. “That has got to stop.”
According to information handed out at the event, the Mat-Su Borough’s senior population is expected to grow 41 percent between 2015-2020. Some of Alaska’s most vulnerable seniors are currently on a two and a half year waiting list to get into a Pioneer Home, and the state currently has 5,000 applications on file.
All three lawmakers agreed that the Pioneer Home was a crucial part of the Mat-Su community, and agreed to support funding for the facility in the future.
“This Pioneer Home is special because it not only takes care of our seniors, it takes care of the seniors that also helped protect our nation and fought for out nation’s values. And with that it also has additional federal funding,” said Sen. Wilson. “It’d be silly to just lose that opportunity for the State of Alaska.”
“A senior and a veteran should never have to wonder where they’re going to go the next day, and I will do everything that I can to make sure that that does not happen again,” said Rep. Tilton.