Dear Governor Dunleavy,
Hundreds of Alaskans in the community of Tuluksak have been forced to live without access to drinkable water after the water treatment plant and washeteria caught fire on January 16. Despite the heroic efforts of village residents to fight the flames, the incident resulted in the total loss of these critical facilities.
Individuals, as well as regional partners in public and private sectors, rose to the occasion and took action to support the 370 Alaskans who abruptly found themselves without access to a reliable water. According to local reporting, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and individual donors, including the Indigenous rapper Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, sent pallets of water to the village. Companies, including Alaska Airlines and Donlin Gold, also sent shipments of water.
The outpouring of goodwill is a testament to the spirit of Alaskans. Sadly, this approach stands in stark contrast to the inaction of the State of Alaska, which has not sent help or responded to the plea of residents urging an emergency disaster declaration.
As State legislators who represent rural districts, we respectfully urge you to expedite Tuluksak’s disaster declaration request, free up funding where possible to leverage federal resources, and deploy the Alaska National Guard in alignment with regional partners to offer relief as the community rebuilds from this disaster. Leaving the community without sustained water security amid the worst public health pandemic in over a century is simply not an option. Immediate State action is clearly needed.
ALASKA BUSH CAUCUS
Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, Rep. Bryce Edgmon, Rep. Josiah Patkotak, Rep. Neal Foster, Sen. Donny Olson
Support for extending the Alaska’s Disaster Declaration
Dear Governor Dunleavy,
Thank you for your continued leadership during the unprecedented nature of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Alaska House Coalition supports your effort to extend the January 15th Disaster Declaration through Senate Bill 56. As you know, the House does not yet have a governing majority in place. As we continue our work, we believe it is imperative to formally express our support for continuing the disaster declaration for an additional 30 days. Our commitment remains for the House to ratify continuation of the disaster declaration. While we continue to assert the Legislature ultimately holds the authority to address ongoing disasters, we also acknowledge the critical nature of continuing the disaster declaration.
We look forward to working with you as Alaska navigates this once-in-a century pandemic. Thank you.
Alaska House Coalition
Support for new 30-day disaster declaration for Alaska
Acknowledging many Alaskans immediate need for the resources allocated through a Disaster Declaration, we the undersigned support a new 30-day disaster declaration. We acknowledge the state’s transition from a disaster to a recovery stage and support the reductions of mandates to carefully but fully reopen the state’s economy, while safely protecting Alaskans.
We intend that this temporary extension will lead to the good-faith negotiations needed for all Alaskans to get the help they need, while also providing a pathway for Alaska to turn the page on the COVID-19 pandemic. While we do not surrender the Legislature’s authority to address disasters, we acknowledge the time-constraints set before us require action that in normal circumstances would not be taken.
We look forward to working with all parties to ensure Alaska recovers and maintains its strength and independence following the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you.
Alaska State House of Representatives
Setting the record straight on the PFD
Since introducing my plan to provide Alaskans with $5,000 in economic relief during the worst economic crisis in Alaska’s history, I’ve seen no shortage of outlandish claims. Invariably, these arguments are made by folks who aren’t having any problems paying their bills in these difficult times.
I’d like to set a few things straight. My proposal is not a complicated one. While it’s part of my “Path Forward” budget, it could also be called “following the law.” The numbers are approximate, but the proposed relief consists of the $1,900 remaining from last year’s Permanent Fund dividend and a lawful $3,100 dividend for this year.
The most frequent argument against providing PFD relief is the cost. I’ll make this simple. We can pay a little over $3 billion now and see that money injected into back our economy as Alaskans spend it on the things they need to survive, or we can pay a much higher price later on in the form of welfare and state services.
We are on the backside of a once-in-a-100-year crisis. Last spring, we saw the shutdown of the modern world. Nearly a year later, some places still haven’t opened up. As I speak, we are working to mitigate a year-long Canadian cruise ship ban that will have an enormous impact on thousands of Alaskans.
In the last week alone, 183,000 Alaskans struggled to cover basic household expenses. Another 29,000 have fallen behind on their rent. Twenty percent of Anchorage businesses fear permanent closure, and that’s on top of those who’ve tragically gone under.
So when I hear folks throwing around the terms “massive,” “outsized,” or “spending spree,” I wonder if they understand what it costs to feed a family or pay the rent in our modern society. The implication that I should tell a single mom who’s been laid off for months that she should resist the “temptation” of a “big check” is frankly insulting.
The need for relief is universally agreed upon, and Alaska may be the only state in the country with the ability to help. By any metric, the Permanent Fund can afford to provide a lawful dividend. As I have continuously stated, this represents less than one year of fund growth.
Not only will this money be going directly into Alaskans pockets, much of it will make its way back into our economy. Restaurants, barbers, grocery stores, home repair businesses – everyone who runs a business in Alaska will receive a much-needed boost in revenue.
The best part is that the first portion of relief could be made available as soon as April. The bad news is that this requires certain elements of the Legislature to set aside their paralyzing internal drama and pass my Fiscal Year 2021 supplemental budget. The future of Alaska is not a game to be won or lost. If ever there was a time to rise above the usual politicking, it is now.
Ultimately, the debate about whether the Permanent Fund can afford to help Alaskans in their time of crisis is a misdirect. It clearly can.
What this boils down to is a desire to use the Permanent Fund to support government growth. Think about it. Is there any magic number by which the anti-PFD crowd will suddenly decide that Alaskans deserve more than table scraps? I’m willing to bet that “creative” reinterpretations of Gov. Hammond’s words and oversimplified compounding interest analogies will still be the focus of intense debate when the fund reaches $200 billion.
These arguments allow those who support terminating the dividend to continue using the Permanent Fund draw as a rainy-day account for government spending. It allows those who believe government should be the beneficiary of your PFD to ignore the hard reality that we’ve spend a little too much on operations in light of declining oil prices.
The irony is that I, too, believe in protecting the fund for future generations. If passed by the Legislature, my plan would guarantee the dividend in our constitution and require an advisory vote of the people to determine how future draws will be divided.
We can’t afford to allow the lawless dividend opponents to distract us with bad-faith arguments. As Alaskans, we understand the need for economic relief. The laid-off waitress in Anchorage understands it. The parent learning to homeschool their child on the fly understands it. The single mom who can’t afford her own medication understands it.
Now I need you to help our elected leaders understand it. Let your legislators know: It’s time to pass the supplemental funding bill. It’s time to get relief into the hands of Alaskans.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy