Governor Dunleavy has made a unilateral decision to eliminate the $300 a week in additional unemployment benefits to 30,000 Alaskans. This benefit, coming from the federal government, not from the state of Alaska, was to have continued until September. This means that at least $50 million, a no-strings-attached gift from the federal government, will not be coming into the Alaska economy. This money to unemployed Alaskans would have paid for rent, mortgages, groceries, utilities, clothing, gas and other basics; in other words, this money would have made a big difference to local Alaska businesses. It is incomprehensible to me to deny benefits to citizens who are struggling to provide for their families, and at the same time, to take away potential sales from local businesses who may also be struggling.
The commissioner of labor stated that it was to “help” people to get back to work. How does this help anyone? The underlying rationale seems to be that the sum of $1200 a month is somehow keeping people from looking for work without consideration of other factors: the lack of child care, the intermittent closure of schools, the still real fear of COVID transmission, as well as low wages and poor working conditions. Denying these benefits to Alaska citizens is punitive as well as economically short-sighted. The way to help people is to support them, not to kick them when they are down. And the way to help all Alaskans is to accept this infusion of money into our still recovering economy.