ULU News - Budget & COVID Updates

ULU News - Budget & COVID Updates
Posted on 04/23/2020
Ulu News
PFD Filing Extension
The PFD application filing deadline was extended to April 30 for this year only, so please submit your applications if you have not yet done so. If you are currently out-of-state and you are unable to return due to COVID-19, you will remain eligible to receive your PFD. You can apply at mypfd.alaska.gov.
 
The 2020 Permanent Fund Dividend will be $1,000, to be disbursed in October. SB 241 ensures that any individual receiving state or federal public assistance will not be adversely impacted by this year's PFD or any other recovery rebate/cash payment.

REAL ID Extension
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the federal government has extended the deadline by which you must have an acceptable form of ID for any travel through TSA, to next year October 1, 2021.  If you don't already have one of these, the 3 most likely IDs you will want to obtain (only one of the 3 is needed) prior to that deadline is either a Tribal picture ID, or a REAL-ID, or a passport.  

Due to circumstances resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic and the national emergency declaration, the federal government has extended the REAL ID enforcement deadline by another 12 months. The deadline originally slated for October 1, 2020 is now pushed back to next year October 1, 2021. If you haven't already obtained your REAL ID and may not be able to before the deadline, the other IDs you will want to obtain prior to that deadline to get through TSA is either a Tribal picture ID or a passport. 

Even though this deadline has been extended, given the number of hiccups some people have encountered, I strongly encourage you to get your ID as soon as you are able to do so safely. Please do not put this off until just before the deadline next year, in case you are required to present additional documents. This will create travel problems for you.

Covid-19 Disaster
The legislature is still in recess, not adjourned, in case we need to gavel back in to address any issues related to this or anything else for that matter. There is some discussion about gaveling back in to pass something to allow us to meet remotely. At this time, I am uncertain whether we will be able to garner the support to do this.
 
As I write this, Covid-19 cases continue to increase throughout our state. I hope we continue to flatten the curve but even then, we will need to remain vigilant for quite awhile to prevent it flaring back up.
 
As a result of the disaster, most legislative employees are working from home. A lot of State employees are also working from home and so my staff and the other legislative staffers are not able to get responses from them as quickly either. So it may take a little longer to get responses from my staff for both reasons. I appreciate your understanding and patience while we are trying to do as much as we can under these circumstances.
 
The state is maintaining a website they continue to update with Covid-19 information and this link will take you there if you would like more information and want to stay up to date: https://covid19.alaska.gov/. The Governor has also been having almost daily updates on the TV at 5 pm. It is also broadcast as Facebook live, if you prefer that; go to his Facebook page to view it that way.
Budget Update

Right after sending out our last Ulu newsletter, the Governor signed the budget bill and included vetoes. As it stands now, it does not look like the legislature has the votes needed in order to override those vetoes, which is very unfortunate. When he made vetoes, he said the federal Covid-19 money that will be coming to the state could cover many of them; however, our sources do not agree that can happen for most of the items. The Covid-19 funds must be used for expenses related to the Covid-19 emergency, and cannot be used for items that are not the result of that emergency. As you can see in the list of vetoes below, most will not fit those criteria. We have attorneys and other experts working to get better direction for how the funds can be used, and if that changes anything about these vetoes then I will let you know. Until and unless that happens, here are some of the vetoes of interest to our district:
  • Public Broadcasting: everything vetoed except for Satellite Infrastructure. So there are NO funds in the budget for public radio or public TV.
     
  • Pre-K grants: the additional $4,300,000 was vetoed; $2 million that was in the base remains.
     
  • Online with Libraries (OWL): was reduced $200,000; $472,000 remains funded.
     
  • AHFC Homelessness: of $5 million, due to Covid-19 disaster, was vetoed entirely.
     
  • Education: additional $30 million was vetoed entirely.
     
  • Education school construction: funding was entirely vetoed.
     
  • Community Assistance: the additional funding was vetoed
There were other vetoes made, so if you want to know about any others, please contact my staff to get more information.

CARES Act Distribution of Funds by Community
 
The Governor's proposed community funding amounts and the schedule of disbursements by community from the CARES Act funding can be found at:
 
This document is only what the Governor is proposing for disbursement of community funds.  It was submitted to the Legislative Budget & Audit Committee yesterday on April 21st and will be subjected to the legislative process. 
 
The total $562,500,000 in CARES Act funding allocated for community disbursements will be distributed on May 1, July 1 and October 1, 2020.  The CARES Act money owed should hit the state treasury Friday or Monday.  The legislature is currently in discussions on if a virtual session may be permitted in lieu of an in-person session due to the current COVID health mandates.  The Senate Finance Committee will likely meet in the first part of May as well.
 
Highlighting the Power of Philanthropy in a Time of Crisis
 
Some of our largest and longest-standing non-profits in Alaska have been quick to organize to address some of the most immediate statewide needs as a direct result of the COVID shutdown. The Rotary Clubs of Alaska has partnered with the Alaska Community Foundation (ACF), Rasmussen Foundation, United Way and many other non-profits in the State to form Alaska COVID-19 Response Fund.
 
The ACF, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is housing the fund while the Rasmussen Foundation is matching donations and covering all administrative costs so that 100% of donations will be distributed to the communities and families in need. The Fund has received over $1.4 million to date from company and individual sponsors. Monday's donations to the Fund reached a record daily total of $30,000 from over 40 gifts. It is worth highlighting that $23,000 has been raised from individual Rotarians and, when the crisis had started, they were quick to find creative ways to distribute the first $1,000 to each of the 38 communities where they have active membership.
 
The Rotary Clubs have been reaching out to local and regional non-profits to help identify the highest priority of need. These topics include childcare centers, domestic violence shelters, food security, and homeless shelters. The individual and family needs include food and rental / utility assistance. For individual and family financial assistance: Funds are being received and redistributed by a group of local organizations in the communities like the Salvation Army, Kawerak, Bristol Bay Foundation, United Ways and Lutheran Social Services who vet individual applications.
 
For distributions and requests, ACF distributed about 250k from the fund this past week, but at the same time had received over $7MM in requests in the same time period. This shows that there is still a large unmet need coming within our Alaskan communities. The consortium will continue dispensing funds every couple of weeks to areas hit hardest by our frontline areas and individual families resulting from the COVID crisis. The local non-profits can continue applying since there is an ongoing application process. $10,000 will also be distributed to each community's local community foundation board over the next month.
Best wishes and be safe,                                       
Senator Donald Olson
Toll free: 1.800.597.3707