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Opinion: Lawmakers must consider seniors during PFD deliberations

I hope they remember that 130,000 Alaskans are senior citizens.

I write to you, both as an Alaskan and as executive director of Seniors of Alaska.

As lawmakers deliberate and work to formulate a just Permanent Fund Dividend for the over 600,000 eligible Alaskans, I hope they remember that 130,000 Alaskans are senior citizens. Thirty percent of senior households have incomes of below $30,000 per year.

Legislatior’s recommendations and agreement on the 2021 PFD will have a dramatic effect on those 30,000-plus seniors, in addition to the many other Alaskans who rely on their PFD for property tax, winter heating bills and general living expenses. To put that into perspective, legislators will be receiving over $36,000 tax-free per diem payments for a mere four months of living expenses.

While a few Alaskans may not “need” the PFD, they are certainly entitled to it by the intent of our state’s founding fathers. So, as you contemplate the amount of this year’s PFD, keep in mind the true perspective of how you will be helping the average Alaskan and your senior constituents. The option to “not file” is always there for those who do not support the PFD.

Rather than recommend an amount, I ask that lawmakers “walk a mile in their shoes” when considering the size of this year’s PFD.

• Peter Zuyus is executive director of Seniors of Alaska, a retired technology executive and former chief information officer for the state of Alaska. Seniors of Alaska is a nonprofit organization consisting of seniors and established to represent Alaska senior citizen perspectives and to guarantee their equitable treatment by municipal, borough and state agencies.

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