Family ties

My dad had brothers, sisters, and other relatives on Nunivak Island but he had never explained my away-from-the-Island heritage. My grandma Edna Hooper on my mother’s side is originally from Tununak. My dad was born in Chefornak so I have first cousins there. He also has one brother at Toksook Bay (Ayagina’ar) and one brother at Nightmute (Lily Joe’s and Bering Strait’s dad). My grandfather on my mother’s side arrived at Nunivak Island from St. Lawrence Island way back when in the 1800’s. So, even I thought of myself to be 100% Cup’ig while growing up, there is an incredible amount of away-from-the-Island ancestry flowing in my blood, Yup’ik and Siberian Yup’ik. What is more baffling to me is that my mother and dad has brothers and sisters on Nunivak Island and I am related to nearly everyone. I am mixed up.

Gilbert Keywehak
Mount Pleasant, MI

Open Letter to Constituents of Senate District B

As a candidate for state senator I have advocated for limited government and a vibrant private sector. I did not advocate for a government shutdown or somehow to make government ineffective through cutting. A shut down or a hobbled government is destructive to our provate sector economy in many ways, as well as, our important government services.

This year the Senate has advocated for trimming government so that we could live within the means of our oil and sovereign wealth income. This required some serious cutting, dramatic changes to our thinking on using earnings of the permanent fund, and capping some budget growth.

We also had to change our investment strategy in oil tax credits as we cannot afford to incentivize at the levels we thought possible just a couple years ago.

The frustration and even outright anger of many constituents in indicative of how hard this task is. I get emails, letters and phone calls that have sharp contrast to each other in solutions and philosophy. The geography in Alaska has very different economies and community needs. We all depend upon each other in many ways, like transportation, health care delivery, education, energy of all kinds, and yet we often have a hard time seeing how any policy hits us different in each area of the state.

That is why taxing people or reducing government services or changing the formula for the Permanent Fund Dividend is so difficult to do broadly. It just hits us so differently in each area of the state.

I am also keenly aware of how hard it is to start and operate a small, medium, or even large business in Alaska. Our government can be both helpful and hurtful to private business, and I work to reduce the hurt and promote the help every way I know how.

I am sorry that the House and the Senate have come to such a stand-off over the size of government and the need for an income tax. The class of philosophy is clear and will continue into the next budget cycle, so I have pushed hard for a budget solution even though I am not on the budget committee or a leadership position.

We have constitutional duties to protect the people in their safety and freedoms, manage our lands, provide education, health and welfare, and be responsive to their wishes as best as we can – given our constitution and laws.

The level of service delivery and cost to the people of our state is an ongoing debate that our three branches of government are instituted to handle. I have been privileged to serve you in the Senate, but I must say, not without a lot of soul searching and listening while still staying true to the principles that I campaigned on.

I thank each one of you for contacting me. Please pardon me for answering in an open letter but with many hundred disparate letters and emails I think this may be the best start at answering.

Senator John Coghill
Juneau, AK

Can I keep this benefit payment?

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, securing today and tomorrow for millions of people. We know that reliability and dependability is an important part of your financial security. We use the same throughout the month eligibility rules for the first month’s Social Security check through the last month’s check, so it’s easy to know when checks are payable.

If you meet all the requirements to receive benefits, Social Security pays your benefit after you have lived throughout the month. At 62, the first month many people are eligible for benefits may be in the month after their birthday. Social Security follows an English law that says you actually reach your age the day before your birthday. So, if you were born on the first or second day of the month, your first month of eligibility will be your birthday month. If you were born on any other day in the month, the first month you could receive benefits will be the month after your birthday month. When starting benefits after age 62, people are eligible to be paid for the month they file, since they were previously age 62 throughout the month.

An example of this would be: if Michael is born on June 1 or 2 and is age 62, the first month he will receive his benefit payment is July. If Michael’s birthday is any other day in June, the first month he will be eligible for benefits is July and his first benefit will be paid in August. If Michael starts benefits at age 63 and files in June, he can be paid for June in July.

Benefits are always paid the following month for all types of Social Security benefits including retirement, disability and survivors. This does not apply to Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Being eligible throughout the month also applies to the month of death of a Social Security beneficiary. To be eligible for the payment, the person must have lived all month long to receive the payment that comes the following month. That includes throughout the entire last day of the month. Your survivor may be eligible for a payment for the last month and should contact us at 1-800-772-1213. For information about applying for survivors benefits, visit our website at

Understanding how the benefits are paid gives you a sense of certainty about your payments. You’ll know how to plan when starting benefits and what happens to the last check. We continue to secure your today and tomorrow by providing the Social Security information you need.

Robin Schmidt
Social Security Administration
Alaska Public Affairs Specialist