House Bill 76: Extending Covid-19 Disaster Declaration
Last Wednesday the Alaska Legislature passed House Bill 76 to extend the state’s Disaster Declaration to enable certain continued protections for Alaskans and Alaska businesses while effects of the COVID-19 pandemic linger on. HB 76 will ensure Alaska can access several forms of federal emergency aid, including $8 million in monthly federal food assistance (SNAP Emergency Allotments) and reimbursements for FEMA costs. HB 76 also allows testing and vaccination sites to remain legally operational.
However, HB 76 gave the Governor power to end the Disaster Declaration, and after much time spent by both the House and Senate on this bill, the Governor signed it into law then immediately proclaimed the disaster over, ending many other provisions of the bill. The long-term effects of the Governor’s decision remain to be seen.
My Amendments to HB 76
I passed two amendments to HB 76 designed to protect Alaskans.One was to ensure that public safety officers and health care personnel are able to get Workers’ Compensation benefits when they get COVID-19 on the job. Unfortunately, when the Governor ended the Disaster Declaration the moment he signed HB 76, he also ended these much-needed protections.
The second amendment I passed tightens up State procurement procedures to ensure there is more transparency,save state money, and clamp down on sole-source, no-bid contracts. This amendment was preserved despite the Governor’s action to end the declaration.
Two weeks ago, I delivered Certificates of Achievement to schools across the district. These will honor and recognize Elementary students who will be moving to Middle School, Middle School students moving to High School, and Graduating High School Seniors.
Alaska Housing Finance Corporation Emergency Rental Relief Program Update
Last week my office contacted the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) for a status update on their Rent Relief program.
We learned that AHFC is working to distribute rent relief to landlords for all applicants who were approved, and that AHFC still has money left for rent relief payments.
Alaska was among the first states to set up its Emergency Rental Assistance program.
More than 30,100 applications were submitted from Feb. 16-March 5
AHFC has not run out of money for rent relief payments.
The Eviction Moratorium still exists until June 30, 2021 for renters who have faced financial hardship due to the pandemic.
AHFC has set up an online application portal and payment distribution systems.
Over 30,000 applications were received across Alaska.
AHFC has partnered with 4 nonprofits and hired 130 people to help process applications.
Priority order established by the federal government:
Low-income Alaskans &
Alaskans who have been unemployed for 90 days or more
I attended the PRO Act Rally in Juneau to encourage Alaska's federal delegation to support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.
Please don't hesitate to give my office a call at 907-465-2435 if you have any questions or concerns-- I'm always happy to talk!
Alaska Senate Democrats | Capitol Building, 4th Avenue & Main Street, Juneau, AK 99801