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Alaska Senate Passes State Operating Budget with COVID-19 Response Funding

Edited/Posted By MARY KAUFFMAN


March 23, 2020
Monday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - The Alaska Senate today passed a bill funding state government for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year, a partial capital budget, and emergency funding to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. 

House Bill 205 totals $4.73 billion in state unrestricted general funds. It holds operating expenses relatively flat at $4.61 billion; provides $116.8 million for a capital budget to repair roads, bridges, and address other critical infrastructure needs; and spends $80 million to help Alaskans mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. 

“This budget provides for the basic needs of Alaskans across this state and gives our healthcare professionals the necessary resources to fight the battle against this virus,” said Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. 

“Alaska is experiencing a perfect storm,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof (R-Anchorage) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “We are being hit on all sides with the stock market crash, oil prices plummeting, and the tourism and fishing season all but idle. This budget flat-funds government and provides critical funding to address the coronavirus threat.”    

“This budget responds to the immediate needs of Alaska’s families and businesses,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage). “I am immensely proud of my colleagues on the finance committee for their diligent work on this budget during these extraordinary times. We must do all we can to protect Alaskans from the health and economic damage of this virus.”  

The bill provides for a $1,000 Permanent Fund dividend this fall. It also appropriates an additional $680 million above the Percent of Market Value (POMV) limit to be distributed equally, before July 1, among every Alaskan who was eligible for the 2019 dividend. 

In a letter to SitNews, Rep. Dan Ortiz wrote, "We do not have the money available to pay a large dividend payout. I understand at this time, a dividend to individuals and families is more important than ever. The amount has not yet been settled upon yet, but I expect the Legislature to vote on the budget, including dividends, this week." (Read the full letter.)

The legislation’s COVID-19 response funding includes: 

  • $75 million to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Public Health Emergency Programs to bolster Alaska’s emergency medical and trauma systems; and
  • $5 million to the Disaster Relief Fund to be used by the Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs to help with the public health disaster response.

Quoting a news release from the Alaska Senate Majority, the Alaska House is not expected to concur with the Senate’s version of the budget and appoint a conference committee, which will allow members from the House and Senate to work out the differences and work towards approving a compromise bill.  

HB 205 passed the Senate 17-1 and is now on its way back to the House for a concurrence vote. 

Source of News:

Alaska Senate Majority

Office of Rep. Dan Ortiz (letter)

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