Dear Neighbors & Friends,
I hope you’ve been able to get out and enjoy some of the amazing summer weather we’ve had! I feel lucky to have had some time outside fishing and camping and soaking in summer. It’s definitely a pick me up during the pandemic that is limiting our ability to do other fun things. Due to ethics rules, this is the last newsletter for a few weeks until after the primary and it is my goal that when I can write you next I will have good news about fixes to the relief programs, that we will have more consistency in our public health messages and will be on our way to flattening the curve, and we have a better plan for what is happening with kids this fall.
WORK CONTINUES ON CARES ACT FIXES
No one could have predicted a pandemic was coming our way and when we passed legislation we didn’t know the full extent of the crisis so it’s reasonable that we didn’t get everything right, but I remain very disappointed in the slow speed with which problems are being addressed. A couple weeks ago I went ahead and got legislation drafted to address some of the current issues – one bill to extend the state Covid-19 unemployment program (because it is currently limited to 120 days of benefits and the federal program expires at the end of July) and another bill to create programs for child care, educational needs, and the small business relief program that would give the departments some flexibility in developing programs and eliminate the need for the legislature to come together to make the changes. Please let me know if you’d like to see this draft legislation. I did this behind the scenes first because it is always my hope that we can come together and work in the best interests of all Alaskans.
What’s worse is that from everything I have heard and know it has become clear the reason the legislature isn’t coming together is because of the ongoing disagreement over the amount of the dividend. It is possible at this time that the debate over the dividend has caused the legislature to come to a standstill. That absolutely must change. Now is when Alaskans really need us to come together to make things work and it hasn’t been happening. My commitment to you is that I won’t give up and I’ll keep pushing for us to do the right thing. What does that mean?
First, we should have prioritized vulnerable populations that we know will always have a harder time when there are service disruptions and challenging times – kids, Seniors and Elders, Alaskans with disabilities, and those living on the edge, to name a few.
Take what’s happening with kids. Here we are with just weeks before school is supposed to start and districts are scrambling to come up with plans without any extra resources on the heels of a $30 million veto by Governor Dunleavy. This was easy to predict. When we passed the RPLs back at the end of May we could have also considered additional funding for districts so they had time to plan and so parents could know what is happening. The Governor did not prioritize educational resources in the distribution of funds even though it was an allowable use of funds. At that time we already knew that students had missed out on the last couple months of school, that child care centers were struggling and on the verge of closing, and that summer programs were going to be cut or with very limited offerings. All of that should have prompted us to invest in those areas, but it didn’t happen. The strain on families continues and there is no way our economy can recover without adequate child care and youth programs. This remains a top priority and I will keep doing everything I can to get resources to these areas.
With Seniors and Elders, we know that Covid-19 has created a lot of isolation. We should have invested some of the CARES Act funds in support of Seniors and Elders through Senior Centers, additional transportation options because some public options like AnchorRIDES were paused, food programs, and ways to offer activities to neighbors online or in physically distant ways like outdoor programs.
Transportation and isolation have also been challenges for Alaskans with disabilities. Our great non-profit community partners like Special Olympics and The Arc of Anchorage offer programming and support, but most have had to limit their programs or cancel them due to necessary safety restrictions. I’m confident we could invest in ways that would help neighbors stay connected to each other and their favorite activities if we invest in ways that can allow programs to find ways to adapt.
In our area, many of our neighbors have been living on the edge and the pandemic pushed them over. When you are living paycheck to paycheck any disruption can throw everything into chaos. It pains me to know that we could and had the resources to prevent this stress to families and some legislators instead wouldn’t do the right thing. Instead support for things like rental relief has come in dribs and drabs in programs that are unpredictable, difficult to apply for, and underfunded to meet the demand. It’s not right, especially when many of these same individuals have jobs that were considered essential so they had to work throughout the pandemic so others could stay home. The issue of equity has been coming up more and more and I am hopeful we can finally make some progress in creating fairness and equity in distribution of funds to Alaskans in need.
MUNI HOUSING RELIEF PROGRAM STILL AVAILABLE – DON’T DELAY AND PLEASE SHARE!
Municipality of Anchorage Assistance United Way Program
The Municipality of Anchorage assistance program is a little different and requires a separate application. To apply for this program, residents need to call 2-1-1 and answer a series of screening questions. Interpreters are available at 2-1-1 to provide translation services over the phone. All screened applicants will be contacted to set up an appointment. Applicants will need to bring a photo ID, a rental/lease agreement or mortgage statement, and a copy of their most recent paystub or self-employment identification. Rental or mortgage assistance will be made out directly to landlords or mortgage companies, not to renters or borrowers.
The period will remain open until funds are exhausted or September 30, 2020, whichever comes first. Call 2-1-1 to apply.
UPCOMING COMMUNITY COUNCIL MEETINGS
Meetings have slowed down for summer, but don’t forget about your community council Facebook page as a way to keep in touch with neighbors!
Keep in touch with Airport Heights happenings here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/101546559886095/
Mountain View Community Council has continued to have meetings this summer:
To keep in touch with Russian Jack neighbors, please visit here: https://www.facebook.com/RussianJackcommunity/
We will keep you posted on future meetings.
Until next time,
P.S. For information on absentee voting, please go here: http://www.elections.alaska.gov/Core/AKVoteEarly.php