Alaska delegation unites to urge President Biden to waive state share of costs for West Alaska disaster
Following last week’s federal declaration of a major disaster to support Western Alaska’s recovery from the impact of Typhoon Merbok, U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan (both R-Alaska), Rep. Mary Sattler Peltola (D-Alaska) and Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R-Alaska) urge President Biden to waive 100% of the state’s cost share for individual and public federal aid to recovery efforts for 30 days, citing the cost is too high to cover with currently available resources. This would mirror FEMA’s arrangement for the ongoing disaster in Puerto Rico.
“Following last week’s historic storm, I knew I had to be on the ground with Alaskans to assess the damage and learn more about what I could do to support recovery efforts. I visited a number of affected communities over the weekend including Nome, Elim, Golovin, Hooper Bay and Chevak. Throughout my visits, I spent time talking with tribal leaders, community members, the National Guard, etc., who showed me firsthand the extent of the damage and the amount of work waiting for them on their road to recovery. We recognize the cost that accompanies the destruction of key infrastructure, but we must also consider challenges that are not immediately apparent: slow-onset disasters such as water damage and the loss of cultural tools and subsistence. The financial needs to replace such a large loss are far too great without additional help,” said Senator Murkowski. “This waiver will go a long way toward repairing storm damage to bridges, roads, water treatment plants, homes, airstrips, and more. Rural communities before the storm were already strained, and it is imperative that we help them get back on their feet and be able to return to their homes and meet their basic needs like running water.
“We are tough in Alaska. But from time to time, in the wake of earthquakes, wildfires, typhoons and tsunamis, we will need help from the federal government. Now is the time,” said Senator Sullivan. “Like our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, Alaskans are racing to fix homes, foundations, levees, airports and other critical infrastructure. We’re also grappling with another complication—freezing— which leaves a very narrow window to get money out and make these communities whole by winter Now that FEMA has decided that it will cover one hundred percent of recovery costs for a month for victims of the Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, FEMA must do the same for those recovering from Typhoon Merbok in western Alaska, where we have some of the poorest communities in the country I reiterate my call to the Biden administration for her to treat Alaskans fairly and endorse this common sense accommodation for my constituents. I wrote to the FEMA administrator, spoke to the Senate about it, and spoke twice directly with the Secretary to Homeland Security q he told me he would address this issue.
“Having visited Nome and other communities affected by Typhoon Merbok over the weekend, I have now had the chance to speak directly with state and local authorities and see the destruction first hand,” Rep. Peltola said. “I am extremely grateful that President Biden so quickly endorsed Governor Dunleavy’s Federal Disaster Declaration, however, I wish to strongly reiterate my call for FEMA to waive the State’s share of the cost of the Alaska for individual and public federal assistance with recovery efforts. This 100% cost sharing by the federal government is essential to the timely cleanup efforts that are underway. »
“After living and working in rural Alaska for 20 years, I know the next few weeks will be critical in getting critical infrastructure, homes and businesses back on their feet before winter sets in for western Alaska”, said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “Increasing cost-sharing for individual and public assistance means we can immediately respond to the needs of these communities and prevent further hardship for Alaskan families who have lost their homes and livelihoods to of the storm.”
On September 16, the remnants of Typhoon Merbok caused extensive damage to communities in western Alaska – flooding homes and businesses; damage to electricity and water infrastructure as well as roads and bridges; and impacts on approximately 1,000 miles of coastline.
On September 20, Governor Dunleavy requested a federal disaster declaration which was immediately followed by a letter from the Alaska congressional delegation urging President Biden to quickly approve his request. On September 23, the President issued a major disaster declaration to support Western Alaska’s recovery.
In Governor Dunleavy’s Major Disaster Request, he requested a federal waiver for the State of Alaska’s share of costs for individual and public aid recovery efforts in Western Alaska, which was followed by a letter from the Alaska congressional delegation urging FEMA to approve Governor Dunleavy’s request.