April 19, 2021
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As the legislature moves beyond Day 90 of the legislative session, the state’s budget is slowly coming into focus, a disaster declaration extension appears headed towards passage, and vaccination opportunities abound.
Progress on the Budget
Last week, the House Finance Committee heard public testimony on HB 69, the bill dealing with the state’s operating budget. The committee is stitching together all of the parts of the budget from the budget subcommittees, and we should have the next version of the bill prepared soon. Once that happens, there will be an opportunity for budget amendments in committee, and once again on the House floor.
On March 11th, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law. This bill is a $1.9 trillion stimulus act for the US, and Alaska is estimated to receive $1.36 billion in total funds from ARPA (with more than $1 billion going to the State of Alaska for disbursement). There are often strings attached to federal funding, and this is no different. We expect to receive official guidance on how this money may be spent from the US Treasury around May 10th; this information will certainly play into the final details of this year’s budget.
If you have any questions/concerns about the budget (or anything else I can help with), please feel free to contact me or my office.
Reinstating Alaska’s Covid-19 Disaster Declaration
Currently, Alaska is one of two states without a current disaster declaration related to the pandemic. HB 76 would reinstate Alaska’s declaration, which is critical for a variety of reasons relating to (for example) temporary changes to state law, professional licensing, and legal liability connected to Covid-19 exposure. HB 76 has already passed the House and is finally moving towards passage in the Senate. If this declaration is not signed into law before the end of April, Alaska runs the risk of losing $8 million in federal SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
2021 Conference of Young Alaskans Seeking Applications
Alaskans need something to look forward to post-pandemic - here is an incredible opportunity for young Alaskans to think about and contribute to the future of local government in Alaska.
The Alaska Municipal League (AML) is looking for emerging Alaska leaders, ages 16-25, to join them at the 2021 Conference of Young Alaskans (COYA). COYA is a unique opportunity that will be offered to 55 Alaskan leaders, who will convene and work together in Fairbanks this August 1-4, 2021.
COYA has been hosted three times in its history, and originally convened to recognize the Constitutional Convention. It has focused on state and statewide issues in the past; “delegates” came from across the state to address critical issues facing Alaska. Their work has been delivered directly to policy makers. COYA provides delegates the opportunity to meet and work with a diverse group of Alaskans who share a common interest in the future of the state. Professional development skills will be honed throughout the Conference, including through small group processes and peer networking.
Many young people who have participated in past COYA events go on to careers in policy or the legislature. Some even become legislators (two of my colleagues in the House are previous delegates). If you know a talented young person, please encourage them to apply by May 10th.
To learn more or apply click HERE.
Alaska is now the #2 state in the US in proportion of residents who are fully vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, while we are simultaneously #10 in current excess supply. Vaccines are widely available and free to the recipient, and all Alaskans 16 or older. Once we reach herd immunity against Covid-19, we can reasonably expect a return to some semblance of normalcy; I highly encourage everyone to get the shot, whether it is for themselves, their family, friends, or the greater good.
An up-to-date list of vaccine availability statewide can be found at the Anchorage Covid Vaccine website. Many locations offer walk-ins (such as the Alaska Airlines Center and the Dimond Center), and there are hundreds of available appointments every day.
Stay safe and I hope you opt to receive the vaccine. As always, please feel free to reach out to me anytime!
Representative Andy Josephson
Alaska House of Representatives, District 17
Serving Midtown, University and East Anchorage Neighborhoods