Gov announces new team to address economic impact of pandemic

Gov announces new team to address economic impact of pandemic

Former Gov. Sean Parnell and former Sen. Mark Begich to lead team

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced the creation of a what the administration is calling the Alaska Economic Stabilization Team.

The AEST is a bipartisan group meant to help protect the state’s economy from the impacts of COVID-19, the governor’s office said in a release.

The team will be led by former Gov. Sean Parnell and former U.S. Senator Mark Begich, and “remaining seats will be filled by a cross section of Alaska’s economic leaders and former elected officials,” according to the governor’s office.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Parnell told the Empire at this point the makeup of the team was largely fluid.

“This is not going to look like the standard set the notice for the meeting (organization), this is an unfolding, fluid situation,” Parnell said. “We’re having to change our very models of getting things done. This team is going to be unlike anything you’ve seen before.”

Parnell said the group would be reaching out to every sector of the Alaska economy to find out what that particular group needs to bring some stability to people’s lives.

The group would have no authority to make any kind of declarations, Parnell said, but would be working closely with local, state and federal governments and agencies. The team, which Parnell said was currently only himself and Begich, would regularly contact the Legislature and the administration with recommendations.

In an email, Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the total number of seats, who will fill them and what industries will be represented will be announced in the near future.

Former Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich greets and speaks to Juneau residents interested in his then-ongoing campaign for governor at the IBEWLocal 1547 Union office in Juneau 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Former Alaska U.S. Senator Mark Begich greets and speaks to Juneau residents interested in his then-ongoing campaign for governor at the IBEWLocal 1547 Union office in Juneau 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

“Alaskans can expect the team will represent a wide range of industries and businesses in Alaska,” Turner said.

Parnell was emphatic the team would encompass a wide range of Alaskans. Asked who would be on the team, Parnell said “every Alaskan, I hope.”

“It’s Alaska’s team,” he said. “It’s a team of Alaskans that are fighting for Alaska.”

No official first meeting had been scheduled yet, but Parnell said work had already begun.

“We’re already seeing some hardship and layoffs in our economy,” he said. “We want to make it easy to have some stability in these hard times. There are some suggestions we’ve already been able to pass along.”

Because the crisis caused by the coronavirus was unprecedented, what the team was going to look like and how it would operate would evolve over time, Parnell said. Given the current situation everyone was going to have to learn to do business differently, he said.

Parnell said that both he and Begich had reached out to the governor recently to offer their help.

“The governor has seized the opportunity to bring Alaskans together, when it comes down to it we are all in for Alaska,” Parnell said.

Begich could not immediately be reached for comment.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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