News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator Stedman
For Immediate Release: March 11, 2020

Legislature Delivers Funding to Combat Coronavirus

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JUNEAU – The Alaska Senate today unanimously approved supplemental funding to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

“The health and safety of all Alaskans is the Legislature's number one priority,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner. “Today's action is about quickly providing our public health professionals with the resources they need to mitigate the spread of this disease.”

The Senate Finance Committee this morning amended the Mental Health Budget, House Bill 206, to include $4.1 million in state funds and $9 million in federal receipt authority requested by the Dunleavy administration to fill 10 public health positions in the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). 

“The Senate recognizes the urgency and fluidness of the health risk facing Alaskans,” said Senator Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Therefore, we acted swiftly to provide the requested funding to protect all Alaskans.”

“This bill is necessary in order to deploy the funds as soon as possible,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, co-chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee. “It will allow us to hire the right people and get the infrastructure and testing kits in place to be able to react immediately when cases begin to show up in Alaska.”

“We are in constant communication with Governor Dunleavy’s administration and will do all we can to ensure they have the tools and support they need to deal with this threat,” said Senator David Wilson, R-Wasilla, chairman of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee.

The 10 temporary positions within the DHSS Division of Public Health include:

  • Five new public health nurses;
  • Three nurse epidemiologists;
  • One microbiologist in Fairbanks to assist with lab testing; and
  • One emergency manager to assist in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

These public health professionals will be based statewide and will be able to assist rural communities to monitor and screen for COVID-19.

“While this nimble action is needed, we urge our fellow Alaskans to recognize the expert advice from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anne Zink, and Health Commissioner, Adam Crum,” Sen. Giessel added. “Simple measures, such as hand washing, social distancing and not touching your face, can be very effective.” 

HB 206 passed the Senate by a vote of 19-0 and is now on its way to the Alaska House of Representatives, which is expected to concur with the bill before sending it to Governor Mike Dunleavy for his signature.

For more information, contact Senate Majority Communications Director Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066.

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