Petersburg’s Legislative Information Office — or LIO — recently reopened ahead of the upcoming legislative session. It’s an office that helps residents connect with their state representatives and find state resources.
Matt Lichtenstein is the legislative information officer. Part of his job is to help Petersburg residents contact their lawmakers.
“LIO’s serve the constituents, residents of Alaska to help them have as close as possible contact with their lawmakers, and with the process of legislation,” Lichtenstein said.
“You know, obviously, being a huge state. it’s hard for people to be in contact online definitely has made a huge difference over the years, but it’s still tough when you’re so far away.”
LIO helps residents engage with the legislature by setting up a teleconference so they can testify during legislative sessions.
LIO’s are not exclusive to rural Alaska. Many states in the US have LIOs in both urban and rural areas.
The offices help residents navigate local, state, and federal government.
“Speaking specifically for Petersburg, we focus on a whole bunch of things beyond the legislature as far as lawmaking. You know, we help folks navigate all sorts of state websites, get state information,” Lichtenstein said.
“Helping folks find the person they need to speak with about various issues, whether it’s division of elections, or public assistance, or maybe branching out to the federal government, Social Security.”
Lichtenstein said in December, he got lots of questions asking about public assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, which used to be called food stamps, and the Heating Assistance Program or HAP.
“This year, we’ve had a lot of questions. More than usual, we get some every year, but about public assistance, and how people can find more information on what’s happening with public assistance programs, whether it’s food stamps, that sort of thing,” Lichtenstein said.
“We can give them some ideas, what we understand to be happening in the state, but we can also let them know, you know how they get in touch with public assistance, print out forms for them, so that they can do that.”
During the pandemic, applying for SNAP benefits was easier. However, many Alaskans were asked to reapply last fall.
The LIO in Petersburg is open during the legislative session between December and May. The first day of the legislative session for 2023 is January 17th.
The LIO is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 12pm and 1pm to 4:30pm. It’s at 11B Gjoa Street.