The House passed the Senate’s mental health budget with nay votes only from Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, and Mike Prax, R-Nole Pole. A special joint subcommittee has been formed to address the coronavirus, but it’s first meeting will not be open to the public.
Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, says the money is part of the mental health budget because there is a need to get the money out as soon as possible. The mental health budget is typically not controversial, which is why the Senate chose to add funds for the coronavirus to that budget.
The Senate unanimously passed supplemental funding for more nurses, an epidemiologist, and a microbiologist. The Senate bill, which is currently before the House, would appropriate $4 million in state funds and $9 million in federal funds.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a disaster declaration concerning COVID-19 Wednesday morning. The declaration will allow the state to tap into federal funds, expedite certain procurement processes and allow the state to take special actions to address the spread of the virus.
There are currently no known cases of coronavirus in the state, according to Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer for the State of Alaska, told reporters at a press conference. But considering the spread of the virus in other communities in the United States, particularly Washington state, officials expect the virus to come to the state in the near future.
“We’re in contact with federal officials, we feel pretty good about the protocols that we have in place,” Dunleavy said. “We had a teleconference this morning with mayors around the state, legislative leadership, our commissioners.”
The governor repeated the advice given by health officials that washing hands, staying away from large groups, and diligent cleaning were excellent ways to contain the spread of the virus.
Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum said the state could receive $4.9 million from the federal government and potentially more.
This is a developing story, check back later for updates.