OPEN AIR CONCERT – From left, musicians Ross Venneberg, Brian Neal, Wade Demmert and Roger Schmidt perform an outdoor brass concert for residents of the Pioneers Home Monday. The professional musicians, who are hunkered down in Sitka, are regulars at the annual Holiday Brass Concert. The Pioneers Home has been closed to visitors during the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Senate Puts $1,000 Stimulus in Budget

By BECKY BOHRER
 
The Associated Press

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska Senate approved a budget provision Monday that would give residents a $1,000 payment as a way to blunt economic impacts from the coronavirus.

The provision, an amendment to a larger state spending package, passed 12-7 after the Senate rejected a proposed $1,300 stimulus payment. The underlying budget passed 17-1 later in the day, with Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold voting in opposition.

The House Monday evening declined to agree to the Senate version of the budget, setting the stage for a conference committee. 

The stimulus provision would use earnings from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, which traditionally have been used to pay yearly dividends to residents. The budget bill itself proposed a dividend for later this year of about $1,000. That remained part of the bill.

Several senators said an economic stimulus is critical, with many businesses temporarily closed or laying off workers as government officials seek to slow the spread of the virus. Sen. Mike Shower, a Wasilla Republican who sponsored the amendment, said he hoped the payments would be made as soon as possible.

Others supported more targeted relief that they said lawmakers were working on, or expressed concern with digging too deeply into permanent fund earnings. 

“I’m concerned that it’s too broad and that money should be concentrated to the needy families,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. He said the provision would result in an excess draw on earnings, beyond what was scheduled to be withdrawn. 

 

 

Alaska Senate President Cathy Giessel, center, speaks with Sens. Bert Stedman, left, and Lyman Hoffman, right, on the floor of the Senate on Monday in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

 

The adopted stimulus provision would go to eligible Alaskans who got dividends in 2019. Lawmakers also use earnings to help pay for government expenses amid a persistent budget deficit. 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, as part of his economic response to the virus, proposed something similar to the failed $1,300 amendment. The Republican proposed paying what he felt Alaskans were owed and did not receive last year when lawmakers approved a permanent fund dividend of $1,606. 

Dunleavy has advocated following until it’s changed a dividend formula that many lawmakers consider unsustainable. Had the formula been followed, 2019 checks would have been $2,910, according to the Department of Revenue. Dunleavy proposed making up the difference.

Meanwhile, senators rejected an amendment that proposed paying a dividend using the formula last used in 2015. The size of such a dividend this year would have been about $3,100, the Legislative Finance Division has said.

Lawmakers are trying to finish up their most pressing work — including state budgets — within the coming days amid concerns with the coronavirus. Rep. David Eastman, who has been critical of the Legislature’s planning around the virus, donned sunglasses and a face mask on the House floor Monday. Rep. Sharon Jackson also wore a face mask.

The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems.

The budget passed by the Senate also includes $80 million for response to the virus, which Stedman said is contingent upon passage of a bill that would extend the public health disaster emergency declaration issued by Dunleavy. 

The budget also includes an extra $30 million to be distributed as grants to K-12 schools and includes a lesser cut to the University of Alaska system than proposed by Dunleavy. 

 

 

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Alaska COVID-19
At a Glance

(updated 7-7-20)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 11:15 p.m. Tuesday.

New cases as of Sunday: 19

Total statewide – 1,184

Total (cumulative) deaths – 17

Active cases in Sitka – 8 (3 resident; 5 non-resident)

Recovered cases in Sitka – 12 (10 resident; 2 non-resident)

The state says the cumulative number of cases hospitalized is 78.

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

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Welcome to the Sitka Sentinel's web page. In order to make the Sentinel's news more easily available during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken down the paywall to access articles on this page. Just click on an article headline to read the story. 

March 23, 2020

NOTICE FROM THE PUBLISHERS

TO READERS AND ADVERTISERS

For the duration of the COVID-19 disaster emergency declared by federal, state and local authorities, the Sentinel is taking additional measures to reduce virus exposure to its employees and contractors as well as to the public, while continuing to publish a daily news report for Sitka.

To the extent possible, Sentinel news and sales staff will be working from home. For the protection of our carriers, home delivery of the newspaper will be stopped effective Tuesday, March 24.

The Sentinel will continue to publish on its website sitkasentinel.com. Access to the website will be free to all users. The Sentinel will also produce a print edition Monday through Friday. It will be available to all readers without charge, at locations throughout town.

Initially, these locations are those where the Sentinel's newspaper vending machines are already in place. The coin mechanisms will be disabled or the doors removed to permit easy access. The Sentinel will work with the stores where the paper is usually sold, to designate a place inside or outside the store where the free edition can be made available.  

Home delivery subscriptions are on hold, and after the end of the disaster emergency, subscriptions will be extended at no charge for the number of days that there was no home delivery.

The Sentinel will make its print edition available to the public as early in the day as possible. with all personnel taking precautions to prevent spread of the virus.

The Sentinel is calling upon its customers to observe the COVID-19 emergency precautions already in place, particularly in maintaining a six-foot social distance from others at newspaper distribution sites.

Following is the statement issued by the Sentinel on March 16, stating the Sentinel's emergency procedures, which remain in effect.

The Sentinel office at 112 Barracks Street is closed to the public. We encourage people to use the phone, email or the U.S. Postal Service as much as possible.There is a slot in the front door of the office for ads, news items and payment checks. Emails may be sent to  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and the phone number is (907) 747-3219.                                                                          

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