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Some Alaska Native Elders must choose between keeping their corporation shares or accepting federal assistance. New legislation would change that.

20220427 obernolte.JPG
U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous People
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On April 27, 2022, during a U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples hearing, U.S. Rep. Jay Olbernolte (R-California) discusses a measure introduced by the late Rep. Don Young that would remove corporation dividends as a restriction to eligibility for Alaska Native Elders for some federal assistance programs.

Some Alaska Native Elders must make the tough choice of whether to give their Native corporation shares away to be eligible for federal programs like SNAP. A piece of federal legislation would exclude settlement trust benefits from counting against their eligibility for some federal programs.

Before the late Alaska U.S. Congressman Don Young (at-large) died, he introduced House Resolution 437.

The legislation would amend the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act to exclude certain payments to Alaska Native Elders when determining eligibility for need-based federal programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The U.S. House Subcommittee for Indigenous People held a hearing for testimony (Wednesday, April 27, 2022) on a series of Tribal-related measures, including Young’s legislation.

California Republican U.S. Congressman Jay Obernolte (District 8) is Acting Ranking committee member.

1629 “This discrepancy between the types of income from ANCs can place many Alaska Native Elders in the position of having to choose between accepting settlement trust interest on one hand or qualifying government assistance on the other -- and obviously, that’s not a situation we would want to put anyone in.”

According to U.S. Census material more than 10,000 Alaska Native and American Indians living in Alaska are 65 years of age or older. Based on 2020 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and census data, about 550 Alaska Native and/or American Indians 65 or older received benefits.

During testimony, Chugach Alaska Corporation board chairman Sheri Buretta spoke before the subcommittee:

“Perhaps one of the most meaningful benefits we provide is annual dividend distributions, which are a critical income source for our people this is particularly true for our Elders, many of whom live in our remote communities and face a harsh environment, limited transportation, supply chain challenges, surging living cost and food security issues. 4802 “It is my understanding that the effect of this bill on the budget is marginal, but the impact on our Alaska Native Elders is significant. HR 437 is very narrow and applies to Elders 65 and over.”

Chugach is the regional Native corporation for the Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet.

House Resolution 437 was introduced in January, and was referred to U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indigenous Peoples.