President Biden approves Alaska Disaster Declaration

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Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 1:45 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2022 at 1:45 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - President Biden approved a disaster declaration for Alaska on Friday and ordered federal assistance for state, tribal, and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the recent storm that battered western Alaska from September 15 to September 20.

Federal assistance is in addition to state assistance to help communities in western Alaska with recovery efforts.

Federal funding will be available to individuals affected by the storm in the following areas:

  • Bering Strait Regional Education Attendance Area
  • Lower Yukon Regional Education Attendance Area
  • Lower Kuskokwim Regional Education Attendance Area
  • Kashunamiut Regional Education Attendance Area

According to the disaster declaration, “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”

Additionally the declaration states, “Federal funding also is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures in the Regional Educational Attendance Areas of Bering Strait, Kashunamiut, Lower Kuskokwim, and Lower Yukon.” The declaration also states, “Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide.”

Timothy Manner is the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected areas. Residents and business owners who sustained losses from the storm in western Alaska can begin applying for assistance via online through the Disaster website. You can also call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or use the FEMA App. Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, can give FEMA the number for that service.

Governor Dunleavy declared a disaster declaration for the State of Alaska on September 17. This opened up state aid to help residents affected by the storm.

The State Individual Assistance program will start on Monday, September 26. Individuals and families needing assistance can apply online through the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management website at Ready.Alaska.Gov

A State of Alaska Disaster Hotline will begin taking calls on Wednesday, September 28. The number to call is 1-855-445-7131.

The maximum amount allotted for housing assistance and other needs grants is $18,950. The deadline to apply for assistance is November 17, 2022.

State funding will be available to individuals affected by the storm in the following areas:

  • Northwest Arctic Borough
  • Bering Strait Regional Education Attendance Area
  • Lower Yukon Regional Education Attendance Area
  • Lower Kuskokwim Regional Education Attendance Area
  • Kashunamiut Regional Education Attendance Area

According to the State of Alaska disaster declaration, “Temporary housing grants are available to both renters and owners of homes damaged or destroyed by the storm and offer up to 18 months of assistance for homeowners and up to three months for renters.”

Additionally, “Housing assistance grants exist to help cover the costs of home repairs that are not covered by insurance. This funding is for primary residences only and will not cover damaged fish or hunting camp structures or residences occupied for less than six months.”

Other Needs Assistance grants are also available for personal property such as appliances, furniture, and clothing and some cleanup costs. Medical needs not covered by insurance will also be considered.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell will be touring west coast Alaska communities caused from the remnants of Typhoon Merbok this weekend and get a firsthand look of the damages.

“Alaskans are resilient because they live with and regularly prepare for the most extreme weather in our country. However, that does not mean rural and tribal communities living here are immune to the severe impacts that increasingly dangerous storms can cause,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

Criswell added, “With winter coming in a matter of weeks and bringing a new set of hazards with it, we have hard work ahead of us to protect and prepare communities for the freeze-up, especially those that were already vulnerable before the storm hit.”

Alaska U.S. Representative Mary Petlola will also be traveling this weekend with FEMA representatives to the west coast Alaska communities affected by the storm.

She emphasizes Alaskans’ unique lifestyle and needs and has concerns when it comes to assessment of damaged or loss of subsistence equipment and vehicles. “Families have lost multiple boats, multiple four wheelers,” Peltola said. “These are not recreational.” “I’m also very concerned about subsistence camps,” Peltola said. “Those are things I”m going to be watching for.”

Peltola said, “The Interior Department is allocating $2.6 million through the Bureau of Indian Affairs to 45 communities for purchasing food, water and other critical supplies.”

The governor spoke with the Director of Homeland Security on the phone. He acknowledged Alaska’s damage may not be as extensive as Puerto Rico’s damage from Hurricane Fiona and stressed Alaska’s timeline for rebuilding is the problem. Dunleavy says the remoteness and lack of infrastructure are key issues, with only a few weeks to get things done before winter sets in.

“Four weeks we keep repeating over and over is really when freeze up sets in, in western northern Alaska, and after that, it makes it difficult to do a lot these repairs. Not impossible, but difficult. Nonetheless, we want people in their homes, we want the homes dried out. We want homes back on their foundations. We want kids back in school. We want teachers in their housing. We want people to be able to access parts of their community that right now they can’t. So, it’s all hands on deck.”

In a recent press conference, Governor Dunleavy spoke of the federal and state response to the storm damage in western Alaska. “More than 150 service members from the Alaska National Guard, the Alaska Naval Militia and the Alaska State Defense Force are deployed to Western Alaska. More than 20 of those service members are from communities across Western Alaska.”

“Everyone is pulling together on this,” said Governor Mike Dunleavy. “We’re pretty positive that we’ll get a lot of this recovery done before freeze up.”