The past two weeks have been a rollercoaster for many of us. Before the Legislature left Juneau, we built a budget that works for Alaska, put economic protections in place, and provided targeted support for Alaskans that are feeling the adverse economic impact of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed many of those essential services and resources we worked diligently to provide.

As each day passes, we see the economic impacts and fatal repercussions of COVID-19 that are becoming a daily reality that no one can escape. While some families are mourning the loss of loved ones, we are also mourning the life of other public figures, like music great John Prine, who had a tremendous impact on my life. Regardless of whether or not we have been directly impacted by a loss, we are all dealing with the constant stress and uncertainty this public health crisis has brought into our lives.

However, there are glimmers of hope. I am bolstered by the daily press briefings offered by Dr. Anne Zink and Governor Dunleavy and their optimism that Alaska is flattening the curve. I receive emails and texts from friends and family who have hunkered down and are doing their part to ensure their loved ones are safe. Alaskans have stepped up to the challenge we issued, and we cannot thank you enough.

I am beginning to see signs that, although things will and must change, this is not the new normal, and tomorrow continues to bring hope.

Thank you for doing your part to flatten the curve.
All my best,
Senator Tom Begich
Senate District J

There have been a lot of COVID-19 relief measures provided by the State and Federal governments. To help provide more useful information and resources to you, the Alaska Senate Democrats have dedicated the homepage of their website to COVID-19 relief. We encourage you to go to and look through the information to help navigate you through these unprecedented times.
Budget Breakdown
On March 28, the Legislature passed a fully-funded budget in record time to provide instant, targeted relief for Alaskans who are feeling the economic impacts of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the final budget that was sent to the Governor did not have a spring relief check that many of us in the Senate supported. However, the final budget did provide many essential services and resources to Alaskans – including fully-funding public education for continuity, pre-kindergarten grants, municipal COVID-19 relief funding, and more.

On April 5, the Governor vetoed $210 million of essential services and resources, including many items that were our community’s top priorities. The table below highlights many of the Governor’s vetoes, some of which he hopes to cover with Federal relief funding. However, there are legal questions about whether federal dollars can cover these vetoes. Earlier this week, the Senate Democrats sent a letter, spearheaded by Sen. Wielechowski, to the Governor requesting clarity on his authority to supplant these vetoed items with federal COVID-19 relief funding, which you can find here, along with a legal memo from the Legislature’s attorneys with more details here.
Failure to fund many of these items will pass the responsibility onto local communities and significantly raise property taxes, which will deepen the harm we are already facing in this uncertain economic climate. Please feel free to contact me if you would like more details about the budget.
12th Member for Downtown
A little over a week ago, citizens in Anchorage participated in our annual municipal election, making important decisions that will shape our city’s future. Among the plethora of bond and other initiatives was Proposition 12, an amendment to the Anchorage Charter to add a 12th member to the Anchorage Assembly.

Looking back to the original drafting of the Anchorage Charter in 1975, those framers decided to create five proportionally-sized assembly districts and one half-sized district. The larger districts being represented by two assembly members and the smaller only by only 1. Some believe the intention was to have the half-sized district rotate every ten years with redistricting, but that never came to fruition. The half-sized district was initially assigned to Eagle River and later moved to Mountain View/Fairview/Downtown in 1985, where it remains today.

Proponents of Proposition 12 argued that while representation was proportional across the districts, it was not equal. If an assembly member from the half-sized district gets sick or has a conflict of interest, that district is no longer represented on any given issue. The voters recognized the inequality in representation and voted to approve Proposition 12 by a wide margin. Christopher Constant, the current Downtown representative and champion of the initiative (along with Rob Cupples and others), indicates that the new assembly member will likely be added in 2022 after the redistricting process.
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I am so delighted to hear Fairview, Downtown, and Mountain View will be getting the representation on the Anchorage Assembly they should. I do know Fairview and Downtown, but not nearly as well as I know Mountain View.

Mountain View is a great community which I know because I’ve spent time there. I lived so close that my dog would often lead me into it to wander the streets in search of enticing smells. My husband, the late Rep. Max Gruenberg, represented Mountain View from 2003 until 2013. Every other year for ten years Max and I walked the district knocking on doors. We also went to community councils, church services, and community events there. The Boys and Girls Club is the heart of the community and our many visits for events and the community council meetings meant we were there no less than once a month. So I had lots of opportunities to see Mountain View in action. I loved Mountain View and wanted to write a letter to the editor saying goodbye when Max’s district lines shifted. Max pointed out that naming one precinct as my favorite was not diplomatic so that never happened. Max had no favorites.

Now that I’m writing for Senator Begich I can share my secret love for Mountain View because no one can be offended…the Senator’s district is almost totally to the east of Max’s so the Senator’s, other districts, which Max never represented, should not feel slighted. I hope no one will feel slighted.

I love Mountain View for so many reasons, but number one is its strong sense of community. People wave to neighbors and friends as they drive by or drivers stop mid-street to have conversations with pedestrians or even cars going the other way. People sit on public benches to talk. The community gardens have not an inch untended. Very much a community.

The Community Council was one of the most active of in our precincts and people pulled together for a variety of projects, some that were small teams looking for solutions, others were big projects like the annual neighborhood clean up. My favorite was the 4th of July picnic where Max and I served hot dogs and hamburgers every year.

We were invited into a home for a traditional Hmong meal, to the Park Strip Flag Day for the Polynesian celebration, ate African goat stew at one of the school’s cultural celebrations, and Max was made an honorary Samoan chief. So many other memories. At the door many languages were spoken and English often was spoken with an accent. Being a bit shy myself, I’m not sure I was the greatest ambassador but I found it fun, exciting, and informative.

There are about 90 languages spoken in the schools and meeting the principles and learning how they dealt with that challenge always warmed my heart. Nighttime English as a second language classes had parents catching up with their children at one school and the PTA at another school served a spaghetti dinner at meetings to encourage participation from busy parents, some of whom were from countries that didn’t have PTAs.

Mountain View is the most diverse neighborhood in the United States. It represents every color, a great many ethnicities, countries of origin, and a wide range of incomes. But because property values and rents were low there we also met a disproportionate number of seniors, the sick, low wage earners, and immigrants at starting salaries. Max was a good listener we were told intimate stories of the lives of people we met and often he was able to direct people to the help they needed. And sometimes it was the other way around with us telling of our lives and finding help from unexpected sources. It was a closeness that made us feel like it was our community too.

For community, diversity, and the warm welcome we received, Mountain View has a special place in my heart. Max lost the district in 2013 when the district lines change and I lost Max in 2016. But the memories of both always make me feel a happy warmth.

Again, congratulations to Downtown, Fairview, and Mountain View on getting the equal representation from the Assembly that is long overdue.

-Kayla Epstein

P.S. Speaking of warm feelings, a friend sent me a video of her child dancersizing with a friend over the internet. It made me laugh. If you’d like to share a short video of what’s going on in your house I’ll select a few to share. Parents will be sent a release form if they want their child to appear in a newsletter.
Contact Me!
(907) 465-3704 (Juneau // session)
(907) 269-0169 (Anchorage // interim)