SUBSCRIBE Our session is now complete after a bit of chaos, but we have completed our work for now, but we are far from done. Last month, Alaska received $1.25 billion from the Federal CARES Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the Legislature was technically in session, we had recessed to allow members to quarantine and self-isolate in their home communities, doing our part in helping flatten the curve for the benefit of all Alaskans. Because the Legislature was in an extended recess, the Governor decided to distribute CARES Act funding through processes called “Revised Programs Legislative” (RPLs). An RPL is a process to accept additional funds for programs and services that are already established by the Legislature, usually after the Legislature is no longer in session. In normal times, the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee (LB&A) would review an RPL and either provide a “rubber-stamp” approval or disapproval, with the critical caveat that LB&A cannot amend an RPL proposed by the Governor. During the extended recess, Governor Dunleavy made a unilateral decision not to engage the Legislature while drafting the RPLs needed to disburse the CARES Act funding. Instead, the Governor, without consultation, chose where the federal money would go and in most instances, designated funding to programs that didn’t exist prior to the RPLs. So, what does this mean? The Governor acted as the Legislature, though the constitution identifies the Legislature as the appropriating body. He clearly acted outside his constitutional authority. In response to the Governor’s actions, LB&A met to review and recommend changes to the RPLs submitted by the Governor. Eventually, the RPLs, though some were adjusted through interaction with members of LB&A, were “rubber-stamped” and approved. Nonetheless, on-the-record objections were made by several LB&A committee members who believed that they were acting outside their constitutional authority. I agreed with these concerns. The day after the LB&A vote, an individual filed a lawsuit proclaiming the RPLs initiated by the Governor were unconstitutional. As one of my colleagues said, “this was the most predictable lawsuit I’ve ever seen.” The lawsuit forced the Legislature into action, and on Monday, lawmakers returned to Juneau to vote on legislation that would approve the RPLs. I, along with the rest of the Senate Democrats, advocated for an appropriations bill instead of simply ratifying LB&A’s actions. The leadership of both the House and the Senate chose not to put forth an appropriations bill to disburse CARES Act funding and instead used HB 313 to authorize the RPLs. It was not the cleanest process, but it was the quickest way the Legislature could legally act and get these needed federal resources dispersed to our communities. In the end, the Senate Democrats chose to support the ratification, despite not having little say in how to allocate the federal funds. Thousands of Alaskan families are going through difficult times. I wish the Legislature had gone through the appropriating process to put more dollars into targeted relief for individuals and families that are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, put food on the table, or purchase medical supplies. I am hopeful that in the future, targeted relief will occur to help those significantly impacted by this public health crisis. Let’s be clear; as I said at the opening of this note, our work in the Legislature is not done. With oil prices and production crashing yet again, we must plan for Alaska’s future. It is paramount we develop a plan to figure out how we can continue to have essential services and a strong economy. We must look at targeted relief for individuals, quality childcare for working families, quality public education for Alaska’s next generation, access to reliable transportation, and a safe and secure election process. These are my goals for the future, a future we must start planning for now. All my best, Senator Tom Begich Senate District J Small Business and Nonprofit Relief The full extent of the economic impacts of COVID-19 mandated closures are not yet clear, but what we do know is that there are record numbers of unemployment and bankruptcy filings. This past week, I voted to disburse more than $300 million in federal small business relief funds. I have included additional details below. Municipal Small Business and Nonprofit Relief Grants The Municipality of Anchorage has committed $1 million to support small businesses and nonprofits impacted by COVID-19. Grants awards will be between $5,000 and $10,000. Applications are due tomorrow (Friday, May 22 at 6:00 pm) and recipients will be notified by May 27, 2020. Eligibility criteria and applications are available online at cookinletlending.com/small-business-relief-grant/ State of Alaska Small Business and Nonprofit Relief Hi Friends and Neighbors, When I first came to Alaska 40 years ago for a temporary assignment I felt great warmth for the state when I was told how Alaskans go out of their way to help others. I wanted to be one of those Alaskans. My first home was on a steep hill and when it was really snowy cars often would not fully make the turn onto my street. My neighbors and I jumped out of our houses, sometimes in boots over bare feet and coats over our sleeping wear, to make sure those cars could move on rather than slip sideways into the cars parked on the corner. I felt so Alaskan. A slippery slope is nothing compared to the times we are living through. Of course, Alaskans are finding ways to help. Some are people who simply lend a hand to friends and neighbors, like my friends who ask me if I need something when they go to the store. There are online resources for many communities, based by location, where individuals are willing to shop for other Alaskans who are at greater risk. There are also organizations that stepped up to the plate just this year for just this issue such as the Alaska Mask Makers. It has almost 5,000 Alaskans making masks and so far they have produced over 40,000 masks good for clinical or individual use. They have a website (click here) with sign ups for those willing to make masks or those needing a mask. Violet Kaye says the project has, “Made me feel empowered in protecting myself and my community.” Then there are the tried and true organizations that have always been there and will be there for us including umbrella organizations like the Alaska Community Foundation or the United Way. With so many people out of work these organizations are working extra hard to meet Alaskans’ most basic needs like food, shelter, and safe haven for those seeking refuge from domestic abuse. I thank them and I thank you who have also held out a hand to others at this time. Just Alaskans doing what Alaskans do best. It still makes me feel warm. Thank you, Kayla Contact Me! (907) 465-3704 (Juneau // session) (907) 269-0169 (Anchorage // interim) [email protected] Sen. Tom Begich | State Capitol Building, 120 4th St, Room 11, Juneau, AK 99801 Unsubscribe [email protected] Update Profile | About Constant Contact Sent by [email protected]
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