Rep. Chris Tuck

Rep. Chris Tuck
Representative
Chris Tuck

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March 27, 2020

Legislative Update – Friday, March 27

Neighbors,

In just a few months, the COVID-19 virus has swept across the globe threatening the health and well-being of millions of people. Not since the Great Depression have we seen anything approaching the economic turmoil caused by this terrible virus.

I recently read President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, which he delivered on March 4, 1933 during the peak of the Great Depression. When he delivered the speech millions of Americans were scared and out of work. Life savings were gone, and people were hungry, much like today. The speech gave me hope for our shared future as Americans because we made it through the Great Depression and we will make it through this, together. Below is an excerpt from FDR’s speech that I think is pertinent to our current struggle.

Please be safe,

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“If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we can not merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective. We are, I know, ready and willing to submit our lives and property to such discipline, because it makes possible a leadership which aims at a larger good. This I propose to offer, pledging that the larger purposes will bind upon us all as a sacred obligation with a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1933.

 

Expansion of Unemployment Benefits

The Alaska Legislature unanimously passed a bill expanding unemployment benefits for Alaskans impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Gov. Dunleavy signed the bill on Wednesday, March 25.
  • 7,806 Alaskans filed for unemployment benefits for the week ending on March 14. (1,120 the week before) (The weekly high during the Great Recession was 4,655)

HB 308 will help the hard-working men and women of Alaska during the COVID-19 crisis. 

  • The bill includes a retroactive effective date of March 1.
  • Waives the normal 1 week waiting period and the requirement that those affected be ready and able to work.
  • Removes the cap on the number of dependents and increases the allowance for dependents from $24 to $75 per dependent per week.

HB 308 ensures employees receive unemployment benefits whether they are furloughed, laid-off, lose work hours, or are forced to stay home to care for children or other loved ones as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Alaska has seen a significant increase in the number of applications for unemployment benefits.
  • Alaskans can file once a week instead of every 2 weeks.
  • Nationally, around 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week.
  • Unemployment insurance claims jumped nearly 1,500% in two weeks

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is anticipating an increase in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits.

  • Due to the anticipated increase in claims, the department is asking for people first to file a claim online. https://my.alaska.gov
  • Once on the homepage, click on “Unemployment Insurance Benefits.”
  • For assistance you can call toll-free 1-888-252-2557. In Anchorage call (907) 269-4700. In Fairbanks call (907) 451-2871. In Juneau call (907) 465-5552.
  • Unemployment assistance is available for anyone who is “unemployed through no fault of their own.”

 

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Federal Stimulus Package

Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package.

  • Largest stimulus package in U.S. history.

Alaska is slated to receive a minimum of $1.25 billion from the stimulus package.

$1,200 in direct payments to taxpayers who have an income of up to $75,000 a year. (An additional $500 per child)

  • $2,400 for a married couple making up to $150,000 a year.
  • Those that make up to $99,000 a year can receive a partial payment.
  • Total cost is $250 billion.
  • The payment should arrive within 3 weeks.

13-week extension in unemployment benefits.

  • Unemployed Alaskans would receive an additional $600 per week above the state unemployment rate for 4 months.
  • Unemployed Alaskans could receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits on top of the state maximum of 26 weeks.
  • The bill provides for 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for Alaskans not eligible for benefits. (Self-employed)
  • Includes furloughed employees, gig workers, and freelancers.

$100 billion for hospitals and health systems.

Federally guaranteed loans for small businesses that do no lay off workers.

$349 billion in loans for small businesses. (6-month delay on loan payments)

  • The loans can cover payroll, rent, mortgage payments, and utilities.

$500 billion corporate loan fund. (No stock buybacks)

  • No stock buybacks.
  • Overseen by an inspector general and congressionally appointed 5-person panel.

$27 billion in emergency funds to cover vaccines and medical supplies.

$100 billion for hospitals.

$150 billion for state, tribal, and local governments to defray coronavirus-related costs.

$400 million in grants to states to expand voting by mail.

$300 million to support fisheries and aquaculture operators not covered by agricultural disaster assistance programs.

$56 million for Essential Air Service.

$15.5 billion to accommodate an expected increase in the need for food stamps.

$17 billion loan program for businesses deemed critical to maintaining national security.

$58 billion in loans for cargo and passenger airlines.

$100 million for rural broadband.

 

COVID- 19 Update – Friday, March 27

Alaska

The number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska is 69.

  • A total of 10 new cases on Thursday.
    • 5 new cases in Anchorage.
    • 2 new cases in Fairbanks.
    • 2 new cases in North Pole.
    • 1 new case in Juneau.

“We now have convincing evidence of community transmission in three Alaska communities—Anchorage, Fairbanks and Ketchikan. This means that COVID-19 cases are being identified in people in these communities who have had no recent out-of-state travel and no identified link to another person with confirmed COVID-19 infection. This heightens the need for vigilant adherence to social distancing measures and prompt home isolation of people who develop any symptoms of respiratory infection.” – Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s State Epidemiologist.

3 people with COVID-19 in Alaska are currently hospitalized.

Over 2,400 COVID-19 tests have been taken in Alaska.

Community Totals.

  • 30 cases in Anchorage.
  • 11 cases in Ketchikan.
  • 10 cases in Fairbanks.
  • 5 in North Pole.
  • 3 case in Juneau.
  • 3 cases in Eagle River/Chugiak
  • 2 cases in Palmer.
  • 2 case in Sterling.
  • 1 case in Seward.
  • 1 case in Soldotna.

 

Worldwide

591,802 COVID-19 cases.  26,996 deaths.  130,915 recovered.

  • The coronavirus has been detected in 199 countries and territories.
  • The State Department issued level 4 travel advisories for every country in the world. (Level 4 is the highest alert level possible)
  • The World Health Organization puts the fatality rate for the coronavirus at 3.4%. (The COVID-19 fatality rate far exceeds the fatality rate of the flu)
  • India has been placed under a 3-week lockdown.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for COVID-19.

 

United States

  • Over 101,657 cases in the U.S. with 1,587 deaths. (24% increase in cases and a 25% increase in deaths)
  • Over 15% of all coronavirus tests in the U.S. come back positive.
  • Nearly half of all Americans are now under some form of a stay-at-home order.
  • A national emergency was declared on March 13.
  • 11 states have issued “stay-at-home” orders.

 

Alaska’s Public Health Emergency

The Alaska House of Representatives passed legislation extending the public health emergency to November 15. (34-1)

The bill includes $10 million from the Disaster Relief Fund to assist with any expenses that arise during response efforts.

The bill extends the deadline to file a PFD application until April 30.

  • The state tax filing deadline would be extended to July.

Gives the state the authority to impose cleaning policies for grocery stores and other high-traffic retails stores.

The bill grants Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer the authority to issue standing orders for healthcare providers related to COVID-19.

The bill allows the Director of the Alaska Division of Elections to direct Alaskans to vote by mail in all elections in 2020 if in-person elections are deemed to compromise public health.

The bill guarantees that first responders, nurses, and doctors will receive workers compensation.

The bill eases requirements for professional licensing for those who work in the healthcare industry.

The bill allows wills to be finalized using videoconferencing technology. 

SB 241 enables the Department of Community, Commerce and Economic Development to provide COVID-19 related grants to small businesses to prevent bankruptcy or layoffs.

Governor Dunleavy will be required to provide monthly reports to the Alaska Legislature.

 

Travel Restrictions

Anchorage, Angoon, Juneau, and Ketchikan are under “hunker down” orders.

  • The Juneau order lasts until 10 p.m. on April 7.

Valdez issued an emergency proclamation urging everyone to shelter in place.

All visitors to Alaska are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

  • Travelers are required to sign a form with their contact information and the address where they will self-quarantine.
  • Violators are subject to a $25,000 fine or jail time.
  • The order goes into effect on Wednesday, March 25.

 

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The City and Borough of Juneau ordered all travelers into Juneau to self-quarantine for 2 weeks.

The Anchorage Daily News editorial board is calling for a state-wide travel ban and a shelter-in-place order. (March 24 editorial)

The Aleutians East Borough has issued a declaration of disaster emergency in response to COVID-19.

  • The declaration encourages all residents to maintain social distancing.

 

Restrictions on Contact

The State of Alaska has issued a health mandate to further limit contacts between people.

  • No gatherings of more than 10 people can take place.
  • People must stay 6-feet away from each other.

The mandate requires many businesses to cease operations until further notice.

  • Hair salons
  • Day spas and esthetics locations
  • Nail salons
  • Barber shops
  • Tattoo shops
  • Body piercing locations
  • Massage therapy locations
  • Tanning facilities

Governor Dunleavy ordered all schools closed through May 1.

  • The health mandate notes that students will receive instruction through distance delivery methods.
  • All after school activities will be suspended during this time.

Governor Dunleavy has ordered all restaurants, bars, breweries, cafes, and entertainment facilities closed until 5 p.m. on April 1.

  • The restriction does not apply to grocery stores, convenience stores, soup kitchens, and employee cafeterias.
  • Carry-out, drive-thru and delivery services are allowed.

 

Medical Mandates

All health care providers are ordered to postpone or cancel all elective or non-urgent procedures for 3 months.

  • All elective oral health procedures must be postponed for 1 month. (Prioritize treatment for dental emergencies)

The Alaska Division of Insurance is requiring health insurers to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, office visits, and trips to the emergency room.

  • The waiver applies to in-network and out-of-network providers, facilities, and laboratories.
  • The Division of Insurance is encouraging health insurers to “liberalize telehealth benefits during this period of increased infection.” 

 

University of Alaska

The University of Alaska is conducting classes remotely.

  • Spring commencement ceremonies have been canceled. (APU also canceled commencement events)
  • The university is canceling large campus events of 25 people or more through March 31.
  • The University of Alaska system has over 6,500 employees and over 21,000 students.

 

Anchorage Response

Visit www.muni.org/covid-19 for updated information about the Municipality’s actions regarding COVID-19.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz extended the “hunker down” order until April 14.

  • Residents are asked to minimize social contact.
  • All municipal employees have been ordered to work from home if they can. 

Property tax bills will be delayed for at least a month.

The Municipality will not garnish any stimulus funds from residents.

The Municipality of Anchorage is suspending charges to use the People Mover system.

  • People Mover bus capacity will be limited to 9 riders at a time to accommodate appropriate social distancing guidelines.
  • Riders are urged to only take essential trips.
  • The Downtown Transit Center lobby and customer service windows are closed to comply with the order limiting gathering to no more than 50 people.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says utility shutoffs will be suspended for Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility and Municipal Light and Power.

  • Anchorage residents are advised to continue paying utility bills.

Mayor Berkowitz signed an emergency order temporarily suspending enforcement of the paper bag fee of 10 cents.

 

Anchorage Municipal Election

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Municipality of Anchorage is closing all but 1 of the vote centers on Monday of next week.

Closed vote centers.

  • Muldoon Mall
  • O’Malley’s on the Green
  • MOA Election Center
  • Loussac Library (location is closed by Emergency Order through March 31), and
  • Eagle River Town Center (location is closed by Emergency Order through March 31). 

The vote center at the Anchorage City Hall will open on Monday as scheduled.

Anchorage residents are encouraged to vote at home as soon as possible.

Voters are encouraged to return ballots in one of the 18 secure drop boxes in Anchorage.

Call the voter hotline at (907) 243-8683 between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. if you need a replacement ballot or didn’t receive a ballot.

 

Alaska Court System

The Alaska Court System has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.

All eviction hearings are halted until May 1.

  • Judges can put current eviction orders on hold.

All superior court and district court proceedings are suspended through April 3 except for priority hearings. (Exceptions for bail and other time sensitive hearings)

All trial court proceedings and civil marriage ceremonies are suspended through May 1.

The order calls for all attorneys, parties, witnesses, and other participants to appear by telephone or videoconference.

  • Parties may appear through their attorney in all civil cases.

All documents shall be filed by email.

The filing deadline in all cases are extended to May 1.

Minor offense cases are suspended through May 1. (Traffic infractions)

Child custody and domestic relations cases will only be heard on an emergency basis.

“Many custodial schedules are tied to the school year. Now that schools have been indefinitely suspended, parties should maintain the school schedule, unless they can agree on a new schedule.” – Presiding Judge Statewide Administrative Order.

The order will be reviewed every 2 weeks by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.

 

Small Businesses

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans.

  • The loans are available to small businesses and non-profit organizations.
  • Loans can be up to $2 million to over obligations and expenses, “which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.” (Fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills)
  • The interest rate for small businesses is 3.75%.  The interest rate for non-profit organizations is 2.75%.
  • The loan term can be up to 30 years.
  • The deadline to apply is December 21, 2020.

Apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela or call 1-800-659-2955.

 

Transportation

The Port of Seattle is suspending the 2020 cruise season until the COVID-19 health emergency is resolved.

  • The Port of Vancouver has closed its harbor to vessels carrying over 500 people.
  • The closure of the Seattle and Vancouver ports leaves the 2020 Southeast Alaska cruise season in limbo. 

Alaska Airlines is reducing flight schedules in April and May by 70%.

  • The company is asking some employees to go on voluntary furlough status.

Southwest Airlines is cutting 1,500 flights per day.

RavnAir is temporarily cutting 146 employees and reducing its flight schedule by 30%. (RavnAir is the largest regional air carrier in Alaska)

 

Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

The best way to prevent contracting this illness is by avoiding exposure to it:

  • Practice social distancing if possible – only leave the house for necessities, and avoid gatherings of ten people or more;
  • Stay at least six feet away from others and avoid shaking hands;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol;
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.

If you are sick:

  • Stay home as much as possible;
  • Sneeze and/or cough into your elbow or a tissue;
  • Wear a face mask when around other people or going to a medical office;
  • Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you have symptoms and seek testing, contact your physician or healthcare provider.

 

Links

CDC COVID-19 website.  

coronavirus.alaska.gov

Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU)

Google COVID-19 Information & Resources

COVID-19 Alaska Economic Stabilization Team

I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!

Be safe,

[signed] Chris Tuck
      Chris Tuck
      Alaska State Representative
      District 23 - Anchorage


 

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