JUNEAU – The Alaska Senate Thursday passed House Bill 76 to ensure Alaskans impacted by COVID-19 continue to receive millions of dollars in federal relief.
“This bill is about delivering critical assistance to Alaskans who’ve suffered from the economic devastation of the past year,” said Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna. “The message of HB 76 is clear: We must do all we can to protect our most vulnerable Alaskans while also transitioning back to life as it was before the pandemic. Schools must be open, businesses should be able to operate freely, and the restrictions on the lives of everyday Alaskans must end.”
In a compromise between the Senate and House versions of HB 76, the legislation:
- Protects $10 million in monthly federal food assistance to COVID-19 impacted Alaskans;
- Ensures the state is eligible for future federal aid and reimbursement for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) costs;
- Limits the governor’s ability to spend federal funds without legislative approval;
- Allows healthcare providers to ensure the delivery of telehealth services to Alaskans; and
- Grants the governor limited health powers and gives him the option to end the declaration by empowering the Commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services to distribute federal aid and coordinate vaccine delivery.
Alaska has been a nationally recognized success story during the pandemic, ranking near the bottom of all U.S. states in COVID-19 deaths per capita and leading the nation in vaccine delivery.
The bill recognizes this success and supports efforts to reopen the state’s economy and allow students to return to school.
HB 76 passed the Senate by a vote of 14-6. It is now on its way to the Alaska House of Representatives for a concurrence vote. If the House concurs with the bill, it will then go to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s desk for his signature.