WASHINGTON — Alaska’s congressional delegation and Gov. Mike Dunleavy are asking the Biden administration to waive the state’s share of disaster costs as Western Alaska communities grapple with wreckage from Typhoon Merbok.
The historic storm blew through a thousand-mile stretch of Western Alaska’s coast, damaging dozens of local communities. Homes, subsistence camps, schools and other essential infrastructure across the region were battered. Dunleavy and Alaska’s delegation are calling for more federal assistance to help rebuild impacted communities as freeze-up looms.
“This waiver will go a long way in helping repair the storm’s damage to bridges, roads, water treatment plants, homes, airstrips, and more,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said in a statement.
The Biden administration issued a federal disaster declaration last week activating relief programs, assistance and personnel. The declaration also means the federal government will reimburse 75% of eligible recovery costs.
Dunleavy and the delegation say the state needs more financial help and are seeking a waiver for the state’s portion of the expenses for 30 days. Dunleavy, a Republican, initially asked for the waiver when he requested a federal disaster declaration last week. According to the request, disaster expenses have cost the state of Alaska $163 million over the past decade.
President Joe Biden announced last week that the federal government would cover 100% of expenses over the next month for Puerto Rico’s recovery effort from Hurricane Fiona, but has not yet extended the same offer to Alaska.
The White House and Federal Emergency Management Agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a post on social media, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, asked Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, “Are the suffering and needs of Alaska Natives & rural Alaskans less deserving of federal support than our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico?”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola is also pushing the Biden administration to carry 100% of Alaska’s recovery costs, calling the assistance “essential.”
Peltola and Murkowski visited Nome over the weekend to assess storm damage. Murkowski also traveled to Elim, Golovin, Hooper Bay and Chevak and said “the financial needs to replace such substantial loss is far too great without additional assistance.”