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Alaska News

Citing oil price slump, Alaska announces hiring freeze, bans out-of-state travel by state employees

JUNEAU — The state of Alaska has banned out-of-state travel by state employees, according to a memo issued late Monday by Ben Stevens, chief of staff to Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The memo also announced a statewide hiring freeze, saying both actions were required by “recent volatility in the global oil markets and the impacts on our state’s financial resources.”

All state employees currently Outside are being asked to return to Alaska as previously scheduled, Stevens’ memo stated.

Oil prices have fallen sharply amid global fears over the coronavirus epidemic and an oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The state’s travel ban, effective immediately, was followed by similar actions from the Alaska Legislature, where the leading members of the House and Senate implied a need to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

The legislative travel ban "is intended to protect our entire legislative family and the functionality of the Legislature while we are in session in Juneau,” said letters from Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage.

“It is strongly suggested that personal travel outside of Alaska also be curtailed,” Edgmon’s letter said.

Earlier Monday, the governor suspended three town hall meetings scheduled this week on the Kenai Peninsula, citing the need to “remain closely connected” to local and federal officials dealing with the epidemic.

Alaska had no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of noon Monday. Twenty-three Alaskans have tested negative for the virus, and nine tests are in processing.

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