House passes disaster declaration extension that will help Alaska move on from COVID-19

'HB 76 is unequivocally good policy because it simply gives the state flexibility in case we get another surprise'

JUNEAU – The House of Representatives today passed legislation to provide the State of Alaska with immediate access to every tool necessary to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Bill 76 passed 22-to-15 with unanimous support from members of the Alaska House Coalition and would extend the governor’s declaration of a public health emergency.

The bill allows Alaska to operate airport testing sites for out-of-state travelers during the upcoming summer tourism season, off-site testing and vaccination clinics, waivers to healthcare providers so they can provide healthcare for patients remotely, and to continue receiving $8 million a month in federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

“It’s been a rocky year, but we can finally see the shoreline and a clear path to return to life as normal,” House Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) said. “House Bill 76 is unequivocally good policy because it simply gives the state flexibility in case we get another surprise during the home stretch.”

“The bill that passed today reflects the desires of countless health providers, business owners, community leaders, and other Alaskans who spoke up for an extension of the disaster declaration so the governor has every tool at his disposal in the face of a worldwide pandemic,” Rep. Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) said.

Health and Social Services Co-Chair Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel) added, “As anxious as we all are to see the end of this pandemic, allowing the disaster declaration to end prematurely, out of exhaustion and fatigue, will only lengthen the time Alaskans are forced to cope with COVID-19. Alaska has been successful in mitigating the effects of this disease in part because we have been proactive, decisive, and responsive. Not out of fear, but because the administration and statewide partners have used evidence-based strategies available through the disaster declaration to adapt to the world that we find ourselves in.”

“HB76 is not about fear. It is about our commitment to Alaska. The bill does not shut down schools or businesses or hamper our economic recovery. It provides the flexibility and vital tools we need to continue successfully responding to the pandemic,” said Health and Social Services Co-Chair Liz Snyder (D-Anchorage). “This approach also sends an important signal to tourists that Alaska prioritizes individuals’ health and safety. Our small businesses can’t afford anything less.”

HB 76 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

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