Point of View: Alaska seniors and disabled suffer under Department of Administration change

Closure of Homer, other DMV offices will hurt seniors and disabled.

Peter Zuyus

The Alaska Department of Administration plans to close six Division of Motor Vehicle offices in Alaska. They are Homer, Tok, Valdez, Haines, Eagle River and Delta Junction.

This action harms Alaska’s seniors and its disabled population. While Alaskans between 21-68 can renew drivers licenses online, Alaska requires drivers age 69 and older to renew their licenses in person. Disabled persons of all ages are subject to this policy and will be forced to undue stress and cost for DMV access.

This change is part of Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka’s redirecting money from closing DMV offices, which provide direct services to Alaskans, to other department projects.

DMV office closures hurt all Alaskans and seniors, especially those over 68 who are being singled out by denying them online DMV access while requiring them to travel hundreds of miles to simply get a driver’s license.

This is age discrimination and will cost many Alaskan senior citizens 69 and older an additional $500 just to renew a driver’s license.

Here are the projected expenses to Alaskan Seniors if this change is approved as part of the budget:

• Tok, 404 miles roundtrip plus meals and hotel (Cost per IRS $536.30)

• Eagle River, 40 miles (Cost per IRS $23)

• Valdez, 240 miles roundtrip plus meals and hotel (Cost per IRS $492)

• Homer, 150 miles roundtrip plus meals (Cost per IRS $186.25)

• Delta Jct., 200 miles roundtrip plus meals and maybe hotel (Cost per IRS $469)

• Haines, roundtrip ferry to Juneau plus meals and hotel (Cost per IRS $700)

In some cases, this expense will be made without a guarantee of timely service and require additional trips.

Another concern is the serving area data used by the Department of Administration to justify the closings. For example, Tok serves a very large geographic area, not just Tok city limits.

The Tok area stretches out the Glenn Highway, up and down the Richardson and many other areas to the U.S.-Canadian border. Similarly, Homer serves almost 15,000 people from Seldovia to Ninilchik, not just the city limits of Homer. Selective numbers can be very misleading when used to justify change. And look at Valdez, there is no alternative.

Seniors of Alaska asks all senior citizen organizations and senior citizens to contact legislators, Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka, as well as the governor to insist that these DMV offices remain open.

Let’s not forget, seniors, seniors with disabilities, and all Alaskans without the resources to lose their local DMV are affected.

Here is a list of great organizations that can help. Please contact them and ask that they support keeping your access to a local DMV.

https://www.SeniorsofAlaska.org

https://www.alaskasilc.org

https://www.alaska.gov/acoa

Seniors have a voice. Elected officials need our input — join us and let them know when their job performance is on target or, as in this case, it is not.

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

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