Monthly Archives: February 2009

Alaska Needs New Law for COBRA benefits in the Recovery Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed into law by President Obama last week, allows involuntarily unemployed workers to continue their employer-based coverage by paying 35% of premiums, while the federal government pays a 65% subsidy. Unemployed workers can get this assistance for up to 9 months if they lost their jobs between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009. In order to get full federal help for unemployed workers in paying for health insurance premiums, Alaska will have to write a new state law immediately.

Unemployed workers who lost jobs in firms of 20 or more will get this help in all states, because they are eligible for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) benefits under federal law. However, in order for workers in firms with fewer than 20 workers to get this help, the state must have a “state continuation coverage law” known as a “mini-COBRA law” in place. Alaska is one of only 10 states that doesn’t have that kind of a law.

Model bill language is available from the National Association for Insurance Commissioners.  Minnesota state law is one example of the “mini-COBRA law” Alaska must write to help unemployed workers continue their employer-based coverage.

For more information about the COBRA subsidies in the Recovery Act, use the following link to view a Families USA report: http://www.familiesusa.org/assets/pdfs/unemployed-uninsured/protecting-unemployed-workers.pdf. Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan and advocates for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

Some information in this post has been excerpted from a Families USA correspondence.

Alaskan Families Benefit from Stimulus Bill

President Obama signed the economic stimulus bill into law today. The Alaska Center for Public Policy (ACPP) is pleased to present findings on how the federal economic stimulus package will bolster low- and moderate-income families in Alaska. Recently, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a report detailing these projections. The report indicates that Alaskan families will receive funds for the following programs:

  • $220 million temporary increase in the federal share of Medicaid expenses (known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage or FMAP)
  • $113.7 million “State Fiscal Stabilization Fund” to avert budget cuts—one block grant for education ($93 million), and one flexible block grant for basic state services ($20.7 million)
  • $79.3 million toward education
  • $14,898 increase in unemployment insurance
  • $4.36 million toward child care
  • $9 million for training and employment services
  • $36 million increase in the Food Stamp (or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance) Program
  • $1.9 million toward the Emergency Shelter Grant Program
  • $1,000 federal income tax credit per child
  • $400 federal income tax credit per worker

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Action Needed: Senate to Vote on Jobs and Economic Recovery Package

Lisa Murkowski

Image via Wikipedia

During the week of January 26th, a recovery package with nutrition program investments and other targeted relief cleared the U.S. House of Representatives. A companion bill is scheduled for vote in the Senate early in the week of February 2nd.

Spread the word and help fight hunger in Alaska. Contact Alaska’s Senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich today. Urge them to support a strong economic recovery package that includes nutrition and other targeted assistance to get the economy moving and cushion the blow on struggling families.

Call 866-544-7573 or 800-828-0498 and ask to be connected to the office of Senator Murkowski or Senator Begich. When the staffer answers the phone, be sure to identify yourself as an Alaskan. Give them your message, and do the same for the other Senator’s office. If you have trouble getting through you can call direct to:

o Senator Lisa Murkowski – 202-224-6665

o Senator Mark Begich – 202-224-3004
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Protecting Alaskans from Excessive Fuel Charges

fuel gauge
Image by msmail via Flickr

Alaskans currently pay the highest prices at the gas pump in the nation. According to AAA, the national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $1.84 on January 27. The Alaska average was $2.54. The soaring cost of home heating fuel around the state continues to make headlines as well.

To address the pinch on Alaskans’ wallets, Anchorage Democratic Representatives Pete Petersen and Chris Tuck are pushing anti-price gouging legislation at the start of the 26th Legislature. House Bill 68 (Price Gouging Involving Energy Resources) would make it a crime in Alaska to sell gas at outrageous and exorbitant prices.

“An anti-gouging law is long overdue in Alaska,” said Representative Tuck, who represents the Dimond area of Anchorage in the State House. “The families I represent are stretching their budgets to be able to afford to drive their kids to school and hockey practice, and to commute to work each day. With two in-state refineries it is unacceptable that Alaskans are paying nearly 70 cents per gallon higher than the national average.”

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