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Stevens, Stutes talk state and federal COVID-19 relief funding


Both of Kodiak’s state-level representatives, Sen. Gary Stevens and Rep. Louise Stutes were guests on today’s edition of The Lowdown. Stevens and Stutes talked about measures passed by the Legislature last week that are heading to Gov. Mike Dunleavy for approval.

“It helps evictions and foreclosures for Alaska’s experiencing financial hardships that are specifically related to COVID-19,” Stutes said. “It provides $10 million to and from the fund to assist with any expenses that arise during response efforts. It allows for a vote by mail in 2020, if it should go that long.”

Stutes said they’re also working to ensure that banks can’t foreclose on houses or repossess cars or boats for people facing financial hardship during the pandemic. She adds they’ve also worked with utilities across the state to make sure that no one goes without water or garbage service during this time. The PFD application deadline has also been extended a month to April 30.

Stevens added that the legislation also allows medical professionals licensed in other states to temporarily practice in Alaska with getting an Alaska license first.

“We’re a little behind the curve here,” Stevens said. “It’s, of course, really terrible in Washington state. We’re a couple of weeks behind that. So, you know, as things progress to where they might, we want to make sure that we have plenty of medical folks here in Alaska to help us through this as well.”

Stevens said while the bills are not a done deal yet, he thinks it’s unlikely that Gov. Dunleavy will veto any part of the relief package.

On the federal side, Alaska is expected to receive $1.25 billion out of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package. That works out to $1200 for individuals making $75,000 per year or less, and $2400 for couples earning up to $150,000 per year. Families will also be allotted $500 per child under the age of 16.

The federal bill also extends unemployment benefits on top of what the state is offering.

“Federally, unemployed Alaskans will receive $600 per week above what they would get with their state unemployment,” said Stutes. “For a period of four months, unemployed Alaskans could receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits on top of the state maximum of 26 weeks.”

The federal stimulus bill also includes $300 million specifically for the fisheries. Stutes confirmed that Alaskans employed by the fishing industry are eligible for those funds as well, but the distribution process has not yet been finalized. In the meantime, Stutes helped to set up a regional COVID-19 fisheries workgroup to serve as a conduit between regional fishing stakeholders and the administration.