Governor Michael J. Dunleavy last week introduced Senate Bill 56, a measure extending the State’s existing COVID-19 disaster declaration rather than letting it expire on February 15.
Members of the Alaska House Coalition – composed of 20 Democratic, Republican, and Independent lawmakers – today (Feb. 4th, 2021) issued statements thanking the governor for recognizing the importance of going through the legislative process to keep the declaration in place at this time.
SB56 would maintain Alaska’s ability to accept federal economic stabilization and vaccination distribution funds through this fall, while also enabling important health, safety, and economic provisions to legally remain in effect when the current declaration expires. The new proposal does not include any mandates, lockdowns, or restrictions – those decisions have been left up to local control.
Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky (D-Bethel) said, “I stand with leaders across our state who are calling for a prompt extension of Alaska’s COVID-19 disaster declaration. This declaration provides crucial flexibilities needed by our hospitals, communities, and public health professionals to continue combating the devastating impacts of the pandemic. Unfortunately, this dangerous virus has proven it moves on its own timeline. It is imperative we provide all waivers necessary to protect Alaska’s frontline healthcare workers, empower State, Tribal, and local government leaders to work together, and receive all federal relief funds available for Alaska. Without this extension, communities without local health powers won’t have the tools necessary to address this pandemic.”
“Community and Tribal leaders, local hospitals, nursing homes, and teachers and school administrators have all implored the Legislature and Governor to work together to keep this declaration in place,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage). “We support extending the disaster declaration and invite our colleagues to work with us and the governor to find a path forward.”
Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) said, “Flexibility is essential for our hospitals to continue safe operations during the pandemic and to ensure the ability of local leaders to ease lockdowns, reopen schools for in-person instruction, and end restrictions on businesses when it makes sense for their community.”
“Governor Dunleavy’s extension of the emergency order ensures we can respond appropriately to the crisis at the local and state levels,” added Rep. Liz Snyder (D-Anchorage). “Though we lead the nation in vaccinations, over 200 new cases were reported yesterday. Preserving the emergency order gives health care workers crucial time to get more Alaskans vaccinated, drive down infections, and save lives. Thank you to the Governor for continuing to protect the health and safety of our state.”