Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday introduced legislation to extend the current COVID-19 public health emergency disaster declaration until later this year.
The current declaration is set to expire in mid-February. The bill would extend the declaration until Sept. 30 or until the state’s health and social services commissioner certifies the current outbreak or threat of the virus is over.
The bill, SB 56, needs legislative approval. The governor declared a disaster in March and has since extended the declaration three times — in November, December and this month — since it expired in November. Only the Legislature can extend the disaster by more than 30 days.
The bill allows for temporary changes to state law in response to the coronavirus pandemic in areas including occupational and professional licensing, charitable gaming and online ticket sales and access to federal stabilization funds.
It also describes existing budget authority available to respond to the disaster, including an up-to-$20 million transfer authority from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and federal Medicaid receipts, according to a spokesman for the governor. The declaration grants the governor up to $10 million from the disaster relief fund, as did the last legislative declaration, SB 241, which extended the governor’s March declaration until mid-November.
The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to submit reports on how much the state is spending on the emergency.
Several state agencies submitted fiscal notes saying they don’t expect the continued declaration to add additional costs. Only the Department of Veterans and Military Affairs submitted an “indeterminate” note, saying officials there couldn’t say how much the declaration could cost due to multiple unknowns including whether the National Guard might get called up in response.