Speaker Stutes: 'Working together, we created a better bill than we started with and passed policies that promote public and economic health'
JUNEAU – State lawmakers worked together to finalize a bill that provides public health leaders with the tools they need to end the COVID-19 pandemic and keep Alaska on a path toward economic recovery.
House Bill 76, which protects access to millions of dollars in vital federal funding, initially passed the House of Representatives in March and was approved with changes by the Senate earlier today.
During an evening floor session, the House voted 25-15 to accept the Senate’s changes and send the bill to the governor’s desk.
“The final version of House Bill 76 takes important steps to preserve smart policies that help health workers do their job during the pandemic,” said Rep. Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham). “From protecting $8 million a month in federal food assistance to enabling off-site testing and vaccination sites to limiting the governor’s ability to spend federal funds without legislative approval, our approach took commonsense steps to remove red tape.”
“Alaskans are ready to put COVID-19 behind us, but the only way to truly make progress toward ending the pandemic is to make sure our health professionals, communities, and businesses have every tool at their disposal,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel). “House Bill 76 bring us one step closer to finding a sense of normalcy post-pandemic.”
“The results tonight prove that the Legislature is ready to tackle difficult issues head-on,” Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak). “Working together, we created a better bill than we started with and passed policies that promote public and economic health. I thank my colleagues for setting politics aside.”
If Gov. Mike Dunleavy signs the bill into law, HB 76 will enact several important policies:
• Protecting $8 million in monthly federal food assistance to COVID-19 impacted Alaskans;
• Ensuring the state is eligible for future federal aid and reimbursement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) costs;
• Limiting the governor’s ability to spend federal funds without legislative approval;
• Continuing the legal operation of off-site testing and vaccination sites and waivers to care for patients telephonically; and
• Allowing healthcare and mental health providers to ensure the delivery of telehealth services to Alaskans.