Dear Neighbors & Friends,
TGIF! We’ve made it another week. Today marks six weeks since the hunker down orders began in Anchorage and things really started shutting down. Now today things are starting to open back up. To address some confusion: Mayor Berkowitz does have the authority to have a schedule different from other parts of the state. Powers are determined by how the city and borough is organized. In our case the Municipality of Anchorage is a unified municipality and home rule borough. This great local government primer prepared by the Alaska Municipal League gives more information. See below for more information on the plans to reopen and distribution of federal relief.
Since I last wrote I was able to drive home to Anchorage and am now home in self quarantine. I had two ferry cancellations, but was grateful the ferry kept routes open each Friday so we could make our way home. It was a quiet drive through Canada with virtually everything closed along the way. I love the ferry and find the service is great. It is far past time to resolve the issues with management and funding and have a stable, functioning marine highway system. With a 5 am arrival for a 7 am departure I enjoyed getting some rest on the solarium. The view can’t be beat! We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place!
Our community members have continued to step up and give in ways big and small. The armies of volunteers sewing masks is incredible, the food donations, the birthday caravans, and more have all lifted my spirits. Of course our amazing educators have been at it again with positive messages for our students. This week I want to give a shout out to Williwaw Elementary for coming together to show their school spirit and that they’re there for students!
SAFELY REOPENING ALASKA – GOVERNOR DUNLEAVY PLAN
Governor Dunleavy has announced his plans to begin phasing in the reopening of businesses. You can read the plan here: https://covid19.alaska.gov/reopen/. There are reasons to move forward and reasons to be concerned. It is unfortunate that all of the government assistance programs are taking longer to distribute, that we are finding inequity in distribution of funds, and that there is unmet need. If people were feeling less financial pressure I think it would be easier to ask people to continue to stay home, but after over a month the pressure is mounting and healthy people want to work.
While restrictions will be lifted we have seen in other parts of the world there are second waves of infections and the second wave has the potential to be worse the first. I’m fully committed to wearing a face mask and doing my part to minimize the possibility that I would expose anyone else.
SAFELY REOPENING ALASKA – MAYOR BERKOWITZ PLAN
Mayor Berkowitz has offered a plan that differs in some ways from the state, including when restrictions are lifted. In the Municipality of Anchorage restrictions will lifted starting Monday, April 27th whereas other state restrictions are being lifted today, Friday, April 24th. You can read the municipal plan here: https://covid-response-moa-muniorg.hub.arcgis.com/
Ultimately we have to rely on each other. We can move forward if we are community minded and all commit to wearing masks, using physical distancing, washing our hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds, staying home if we feel sick, isolating if we experience any symptoms, and following all state and local health mandates. We are truly in this together.
CARES ACT DISTRIBUTION AND ADDITONAL AID
What we know for sure: Alaska will receive $1.25 billion in federal aid trough the CARES Act. What we don’t know: Exactly how these funds can be used, where the unmet need is statewide, and how to work strategically with all stakeholders and local governments to use these funds as strategically as possible. This week the legislature has hosted several really important committee hearings that I think you would be interested to watch.
On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee met to get an update on our fiscal outlook. Spoiler alert- it’s not good. The significant drop in oil prices has changed our revenue picture by hundreds of millions and it’s getting worse. At this point we can look forward, but won’t know the full extent of the damage until this is all over.
You can review the documents here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=31&docid=61902
You can watch the hearing here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFIN%202020-04-22%2010:00:00#tab4_4e
Later that day the House and Senate Education Committees met to discuss the CARES Act and education funding. There are several different pots of money coming to Alaska specifically for education for both k-12 and the university. What is concerning and discussed during the meeting is how far these funds will go. Governor Dunleavy vetoed $30 million for education with the justification that the federal funds would replace the cut, but in discussion these funds are for the Covid-19 response so there is still concern about the overall impact to k-12.
You can review the documents and watch the video here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HEDC%202020-04-22%2013:00:00#tab4_4e
Today the House Finance Committee met again to discuss the CARES Act distribution plan suggested by Governor Dunleavy. The legislature will need to come together to appropriate these funds. The $1.25 billion should go a long way to covering costs for local communities and thankfully should come close to replacing all or most of lost revenue from the disruption to tourism and fishing. We need to hear from Alaskans about how these funds should be used. For example, $300 million is suggested for small business relief via AIEDA and AHFC. We are already hearing that may not be the best way to distribute these funds because small businesses are likely to have a relationship with their local bank rather than AHFC or AIEDA. We need this feedback so funds can be used in the most effective way possible.
You can view the document here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/get_documents.asp?session=31&docid=61914
You can watch the meeting here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Meeting/Detail?Meeting=HFIN%202020-04-24%2010:00:00#tab4_4e
Additional hearings this week included the House Labor and Commerce Committee with updates from the Department of Labor and the data on unemployment insurance.
Please bookmark this page! You can find the legislative hearing schedule here: http://w3.akleg.gov/index.php#tab2.
UPCOMING COMMUNITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
Please watch the Facebook pages for announcements from the community councils.
Mountain View Community Council:
Airport Heights Community Council:
Russian Jack Community Council:
Save the date for the Russian Jack Clean Up:
We will keep you posted on future meetings.
Until next week,
P.S. Know anyone who would like to participate in a startup contest related to Covid-19 response? This weekend there is a competition. Learn more here: http://communities.techstars.com/usa/usa-west-ca-usa/startup-weekend/16218