Alaska Legislature

Bill that eases restrictions on unemployment aid amid coronavirus emergency passes Alaska House

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JUNEAU — The Alaska House of Representatives unanimously voted Thursday afternoon to relax restrictions on unemployment aid for Alaskans laid off or seeing reduced hours because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage and lead sponsor of House Bill 308 said Alaska could see 70,000 workers unemployed by the economic side effects of the pandemic.

Under the bill, workers would have to lose at least 25% of their working hours to become eligible for some unemployment benefits, Spohnholz said. The bill eliminates a one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits, and payments are boosted slightly for those with children or who are caring for dependent adults.

The Legislature has acted with lightning speed to advance the bill, which was drafted this week by the House Labor and Commerce Committee.

“It is essential that we pass this measure immediately,” Spohnholz said.

If enacted, the bill would be the first non-budget-bill passed by the Alaska Legislature to specifically address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic side effects.

The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration. The governor supports the bill, his deputy communications director said.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.