The Alaska House of Representatives voted 38-1 Tuesday to ratify the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee (LBAC)'s allocation of $1.5 billion in federal emergency relief funding for coronavirus impact relief.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds for Alaska were at the center of a lawsuit recently filed to block the distribution of funds over the principal that the Legislature should be appropriating and not the LBAC.
“The failure by the Alaska Legislature to provide for proper legal authorization to make all of the proposed expenditures set out in paragraph 14, supra, is an abdication of the legislature’s constitutional power and a violation of the separation of powers implicit in the Alaska Constitution,” stated the complaint made by Juneauite Eric Forrer.
Lawmakers reconvened the legislative session in Juneau on Monday to consider the question, then the House formally ended the legislative session by adjourning sine die.
“Everyone in the House of Representatives put their political swords down and worked together to authorize CARES Act funding to get it in the hands of Alaskans who urgently need it,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon I-Dillingham. “As soon as the Senate ratifies this bill, communities, businesses, and families will see hundreds of millions of federal dollars come through to help tide them over as we all deal with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The allocation includes $290 million for grants to approximately 10,000 small businesses that were unable to obtain loans through the federal Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. The money will be distributed through grants at the direction of the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development
Alaska's fisheries will receive $100 million in economic stimulus to help a wide range of impacted concerns from commercial boats to operate charters and guided fishing tours.
$568.6 million to communities and local governments, distributed in a model that follows the precedent set by the longstanding Community Assistance Program.
$51.6 million will be used for improvement of the statewide aviation and rural airport systems managed by the Alaska Department of Transportation, the Whittier Tunnel and $29 million to address rural transportation costs, including the Alaska Marine Highway System.
$45 million to help stabilize K-12 classrooms and $42 million for child nutrition programs that serve children forced out of school by the pandemic. $5 million for direct financial aid grants to help University of Alaska students.
$10 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to help people make mortgage and rent payments, Alaskans will be less likely to become homeless and be at higher risk of contracting the coronavirus.
$3.6 million in critical funding for state, local, and tribal governments to provide a range of programs including law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and more.