COVID-19 disaster extended to November, Legislature approves emergency response package
Senate Bill 241 helps prepare State of Alaska for COVID-19, protects workers
JUNEAU – The Alaska Legislature this evening finalized a bill that extends the governor’s public health disaster emergency declaration until this fall. The measure also ensures that some of the economic impacts of COVID-19 are mitigated for Alaskans.
Senate Bill 241 passed the House on a 34-1 vote in a late night floor session after a House-Senate Conference Committee worked out differences in the versions of the bill that previously passed each chamber. The Senate adopted the changes 16-1, and now the proposal heads to the governor for final approval.
“I thank everyone in the Legislature who worked to fast-track this bill, which puts tools in the hands of those on the front lines of Alaska’s fight against COVID-19,” Rep. Chuck Kopp (R-Anchorage) said. “We will continually monitor this situation to see what else we can do lift the burdens of people grappling with health and economic effects of the pandemic.”
”SB 241 will prevent homelessness by putting a pause on evictions and utility shut offs for Alaskans who can’t pay their bills because of COVID 19,” Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage) said. “SB 241 gives us more tools to respond to the COVID-19 public health crisis and adds protections for the many Alaskans displaced from their jobs through no fault of their own.”
This bill takes several important steps:
- extends the governor’s initial 30-day public health emergency until as late as November 15, unless the governor declares that the emergency is over sooner;
- provides $10 million from the Disaster Relief Fund to assist with any expenses that arise during response efforts, which is in addition to emergency funding authorized in other budgets;
- grants Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink the authority to issue standing orders for healthcare providers related to COVID-19;
- allows Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer to initiate vote-by-mail in elections in 2020 if in-person elections are deemed to compromise public health;
- pauses the eviction of tenants who are unable to pay their bills as a result of COVID-19, foreclosures on property owners, and preventing Alaskans who are struggling from having their utilities shut off;
- guarantees that first responders, nurses, and doctors will receive workers compensation if diagnosed with COVID-19;
- gives the Division of Professional Licensing the ability to temporarily expedite licensing to individuals who have licenses in another state, and increasing access to telehealth;
- limits the liability of Alaskans-helping-Alaskans by manufacturing personal protective equipment;
- enables the Department of Community, Commerce and Economic Development to provide grants to small businesses to help continued operation;
- provides Good Samaritan protection for Alaskans who want to address a critical shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers and first responders.
Alaska House Majority