I’m Here for You
I want to hear from you. Please share your thoughts and voice
March 29, 2020
I imagine that many of you are feeling a lot of fear and angst. I understand. These are troubling times, and the answers and solutions haven't been easy.
Very early Sunday morning, after working through the night, we passed a couple of vital pieces of legislation that will help Alaskans get through the crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus.
In many ways, I am amazed at the Alaska Legislature's ability to finally come together on behalf of Alaskans during these difficult times. In other ways, I am disappointed in the strong-arm tactics used to pass a budget with a smaller dividend. We were left with a no-win situation.
It would have been a great benefit to the economy to have a $1,000 stimulus dividend this spring and another $1,000 fall dividend as proposed by the Alaska Senate.
In the urgent rush to be finished with this session, we were presented with either passing the budget along with voting to fund a $1,000 PFD from the Constitutional Budget Reserve or vote no and cut the PFD to $500 (there are single members of the Legislature that are willing to eliminate the dividend altogether). A no vote would also remove funding for the Coronavirus economic package and only sustain the budget for eight months.
Because we didn't have the votes to do anything else, I had no choice. I could not take away another $500 when you need it the most.
Fortunately, the federal government will come to the rescue. There will be over $1 billion of federal money coming to the state with payments of $1,200 per adult, with an additional $500 per child, to carry us into the fall until we get our dividend check. At that time, I hope the Alaska State Legislature returns to Juneau to consider additional relief to Alaskans.
The budget that passed last night includes much-needed funding to protect public health and safety while the COVID-19 emergency legislation will help the people of Alaska during these trying times. The details of both bills are below, along with updated information on the COVID-19 outbreak in Alaska and across the globe. There is also detailed information about the federal stimulus bill and the help available to small businesses and those who are out of work.
In the last several days, life has changed in Alaska as we take unprecedented steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are making tremendous sacrifices by staying home, closing businesses, and stopping many daily activities. While this is difficult and many are hurting, together, we will endure these sacrifices to keep our friends, family, and neighbors safe.
During these uncertain times of isolation, please know that I am here for you.
Please be safe,
Senate Bill 241: COVID-19 Emergency Legislation
The Alaska Legislature passed Senate Bill 241 late Saturday night to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in Alaska.
The bill extends the current public health emergency to November 15 and will help prevent families and small businesses from going bankrupt.
The Budget Bill: House Bill 205
The Alaska Legislature passed an emergency budget bill in the overnight hours on Sunday. (23-13 in the House and 13-4 in the Senate)
The budget bill totals $4.74 billion in unrestricted general funds (UGF).
$120 million in capital project funding.
House Bill 205 includes a $1,000 PFD that will paid in the fall.
The bill funds essential government services and supports the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Alaska.
COVID-19 response items include:
Specific Items Funded
Expansion of Unemployment Benefits
The Alaska Legislature unanimously passed a bill expanding unemployment benefits for Alaskans impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
HB 308 will help the hard-working men and women of Alaska during the COVID-19 crisis.
HB 308 ensures employees receive unemployment benefits whether they are furloughed, laid-off, lose work hours, or are forced to stay home to care for children or other loved ones as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is anticipating an increase in the number of people filing for unemployment benefits.
Federal Stimulus Package
Congress passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package.
Alaska is slated to receive a minimum of $1.25 billion from the stimulus package.
$1,200 in direct payments to taxpayers who have an income of up to $75,000 a year.
13-week extension in unemployment benefits.
Other Details: (From NCSL)
Creates a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for state, local and tribal governments. (Alaska is estimated to get $1.2 billion)
$30 billion for an Education Stabilization Fund for states, school districts and institutions of higher education for costs related to the coronavirus.
$45 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund for the immediate needs of state, local, tribal and territorial governments to protect citizens and help them respond and recover from the overwhelming effects of COVID-19.
$1.4 billion for deployments of the National Guard.
An additional $4.3 billion, thorough the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to support federal, state and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus.
Requires the Department of Homeland Security to extend the Real ID deadline for full implementation by states from October 1, 2020, to no earlier than September 30, 2021.
$25 billion for transit systems.
$400 million in election security grants to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus in the 2020 federal election cycle.
Expands unemployment insurance from three to four months, and provides temporary unemployment compensation of $600 per week, which is in addition to and the same time as regular state and federal UI benefits.
Establishes a $500 billion lending fund for businesses, cities and states.
FY 20 Supplemental Budget
The Alaska Legislature passed a supplemental budget bill that includes funding to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in Alaska. (Not yet transferred to Gov. Dunleavy)
The bill also includes funding for Medicaid and to cover firefighting expenses from last year's extreme fire season in Alaska.
House Bill 234 was supposed to include $359 million in state funding but only $246 million was actually funded.
The bill includes an additional $33.5 million to address the COVID-19 outbreak and response.
HB 234 details.
COVID-19 Update – Sunday, March 29
The number of COVID-19 cases in Alaska is 114.
On Friday, Alaska experienced the first in-state death due to COVID-19.
3,654 COVID-19 tests have been taken in Alaska. (As of Sunday, March 29 at 5:00 p.m.)
721,584 COVID-19 cases. 33,958 deaths. 149,122 recovered.
New COVID-19 Health Mandates
On Friday, Governor Dunleavy issued COVID-19 Health Mandate 11 calling for everyone in Alaska to remain in their place of residence and practice social distancing.
The order is due to "community spread" of the COVID-19 virus in several communities.
The order will be reevaluated by April 1.
The stated purpose of the order is "to restrict the movement of individuals within the State of Alaska in order to prevent, slow, and otherwise disrupt the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The social distancing mandate calls for people to maintain a distance of 6 feet or greater from others.
Alaskans are asked to work from home as much as possible.
If you develop COVID-19 symptoms do not leave your home except as necessary to seek or receive medical care.
Governor Dunleavy has ordered all non-essential businesses to cease all activities.
Businesses that provide essential services or support critical infrastructure are required to take reasonable precautions to ensure the health of their service sector and employees.
People who fail to follow Alaska's COVID-19 mandates can be charged with Reckless Endangerment, which can include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $25,000.
Covid-19 Health Mandate 12 prohibits all in-state travel between communities unless its in support of critical infrastructure or for critical personal needs.
The state is allowing many small communities to implement more stringent travel restrictions.
The new health mandate prohibits personal travel unless its for critical personal needs or to work a critical infrastructure job.
The mandate does not apply to government travel.
Travelers are reminded to follow practice social distancing.
Health Mandate 012 – Intrastate Travel prohibits those traveling for critical reasons be subject to automatic quarantine or isolation.
The state is requiring "critical infrastructure" businesses to take reasonable care to protect their staff and operations during this pandemic.
Businesses included on the list of "Alaska's Essential Services and Critical Infrastructure" must submit a travel plan or protocol for maintaining critical infrastructure. (email@example.com)
Plans should outline how businesses will avoid the spread of COVID-19.
All visitors to Alaska are required to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.
Governor Dunleavy ordered all schools closed through May 1.
All health care providers are ordered to postpone or cancel all elective or non-urgent procedures for 3 months.
The Alaska Division of Insurance is requiring health insurers to waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing, office visits, and trips to the emergency room.
University of Alaska
The University of Alaska is conducting classes remotely.
The emergency "hunker down" order has been extended through April 14.
The Municipality of Anchorage is suspending charges to use the People Mover system.
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says utility shutoffs will be suspended for Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility and Municipal Light and Power.
Mayor Berkowitz signed an emergency order temporarily suspending enforcement of the paper bag fee of 10 cents.
The Municipality of Anchorage has moved its COVID-19 emergency operations center to the 3rd floor of the Loussac Library.
Visit www.muni.org/covid-19 for updated information about the Municipality's actions regarding COVID-19.
Anchorage Municipal Election
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Municipality of Anchorage is closing all but 1 of the vote centers on Monday.
Closed vote centers.
The vote center at the Anchorage City Hall will open on Monday as scheduled.
Anchorage residents are encouraged to vote at home as soon as possible.
Voters are encouraged to return ballots in one of the 18 secure drop boxes in Anchorage.
Call the voter hotline at (907) 243-8683 between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. if you need a replacement ballot or didn't receive a ballot.
Alaska Court System
The Alaska Court System has responded to the COVID-19 outbreak.
All eviction hearings are halted until May 1.
All superior court and district court proceedings are suspended through April 3 except for priority hearings. (Exceptions for bail and other time sensitive hearings)
All trial court proceedings and civil marriage ceremonies are suspended through May 1.
The order calls for all attorneys, parties, witnesses, and other participants to appear by telephone or videoconference.
All documents shall be filed by email.
The filing deadline in all cases are extended to May 1.
Minor offense cases are suspended through May 1. (Traffic infractions)
Child custody and domestic relations cases will only be heard on an emergency basis.
"Many custodial schedules are tied to the school year. Now that schools have been indefinitely suspended, parties should maintain the school schedule, unless they can agree on a new schedule." – Presiding Judge Statewide Administrative Order.
The order will be reviewed every 2 weeks by the Chief Justice of the Alaska Supreme Court.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans.