House passes CARES Act bill for $1.5 billion in coronavirus relief funding
The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a bill approving $1.5 billion in CARES Act funding.
The bill was then brought before the Senate Rules Committee for deliberation and was passed. Now it must be voted on by the full Senate. By law, however, they must wait one day before a vote can be taken.
The House bill is identical to a Senate bill which was already discussed by the Senate Finance Committee and passed in the Senate on Monday. However, because the House bill passed first, the identical Senate bill was dropped, and the House bill is expected to pass quickly in the Senate before it can be signed into law by the governor.
It is also for this bill that the legislature specifically reconvened, as they had tried to appropriate CARES Act funds through means that were considered by some lawmakers and Alaskans as unconstitutional, and a lawsuit was filed in order to block the money from being distributed.
The bill seeks to ratify those appropriations via the approval of the full legislature, hoping to eliminate any legal dispute.
Wednesday also marks the end of the 31st legislative session – the last day that bills can be passed unless the legislature calls for an extension.
In order to get the funds out to municipalities as fast as possible, “Grant agreement letters are already going out to local governments,” said the office of Governor Mike Dunleavy in an email. “Once they are signed and returned the funds can be distributed.”
The municipal relief funds, as well as the small business relief funds, are being moved through the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development (DCCED) and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) who are teaming up with Credit Union 1 for distribution.