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Public says disaster declaration isn’t needed but invited experts tell Senate that it is

In Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, the top item was HB 76, whether to renew the Covid disaster declaration. It was the second hearing for the bill and it included invited and public testimony.

The invited experts, including Jared Kosin of The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Association, Dr. Wlliot Burhl, a physician with Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, the BIA contractor for the region, urged passing the bill.

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Phil Hofstetter of Petersburg Health Center, spoke about the importance of testing at airports and said that seven Petersburg vaccinated people still got Covid, although none required hospitalization. Cara Durr, director of Public Engagement for FoodBank Alaska, said said about 34,000 Alaska families qualify for food help in the form of SNAP emergency allotments.

Lisa Aquino, CEO of Alaska Catholic Community Services, based in Anchorage focused on SNAP and food security, especially as it is important to local economies throughout Alaska.  She described the importance of tele-health to Medicaid recipients in Alaska, while Laurie Wolf, President and CEO of the Foraker Group, was strident in her alignment with previous speakers. 

And so it went: Numerous invited representatives from the health care establishment and well-heeled nonprofits called in and were efficient and organized.  

But when it came to public testimony, there was a completely different message. 

Chris Eichenlaub of Mat-Su said he was not one of the highly paid lobbyists speaking before him, and he opposes the bill. He said the money is not free, and his grandchildren would have to pay the federal debt.  

“Give us the statutory PFD and people can buy their own lunch. These six-figure nonprofit people are speaking today to make sure other Alaskans get a five-cent lunch,”  he said.

Mike Coons of Palmer urged “letting government get out of the way,”  and Herman Morgan, of Aniak, also spoke against the bill, saying it is “destroying Alaska’s economy.”   He said the tele-health claim earlier in the hearing was a farce; “We had plenty of telehealth before the Covid. Give us a $5,000 dividend and we’ll take care of ourselves.”  

Kristina Bego, of Willow, said she is very much against the bill.  Christine Hutchison of Kenai also spoke against the bill, saying the governor says he doesn’t need it and she hopes he will veto it.  Teea Winger, of Kenai, opposed the bill and cited fiscal and economic concerns. 

Willy Keppel of Quinhagak, opposed the bill, citing specific logistics challenges brought by the disaster declaration.  “What we have going on out here is a travesty,” he said.  

He said he took testimony spoken recently by Representative Zulkosky, stood in the post office with it, and people were insulted by that testimony – “even people who voted for Tiffany.” 

Francine Reuter, of Anchorage, spoke against the bill.  She said her grandparents and great grandparents didn’t come to Alaska to have the state take care of them.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Expose the $$$$ these individuals will receive when the bill pass’s and it is going to pass and what’s not being told is the power that is being given to the governor. Alaskans are being lied to for the money, you are about to see a dictatorship in Alaska and the Republicans in the senate voted right alongside the Democrats when they vote it will pass and the state will be in lockdown till September. Watch and see who votes for it. HB76

  2. Of course the medical association feels this is needed…it has been a cash cow for the faltering medical system which has been running in the red for years.
    Disaster declarations were never intended for long term use to enrich the pockets of a specific industry, they were intended to bring resources in a timely manner to very imminent situation (like a natural disaster ).
    At this point we are not even seeing ADN publish the number of cases today which tells me they must have dropped severely?
    We cannot continue to destroy our economy and human society by imposing more mandates just so the hospital & nursing home systems can reap more federal funds….our country is getting this covid cash by increasing the national debt by the way, not from some slush fund on Biden’s desk.
    The AKleg should focus more on the issues impacting the future of our state like the antiquated ferry system & our garnished PFD.
    Hopefully Governor Dunleavy does not cave in to these special interest groups that are intent on lining their pockets with more Covid cash…the curve has been flattened for months, the hospitals were never over-run & no one ever liked the fascist mandates destroying our private sector.
    It is time we move on from this Coronavirus propaganda and realize that 99.6% of people survive just fine…of those who die, 80 % are obese.
    We should focus on total community health at this point, that will help the most people going forward.

  3. Our rulers will never relinquish the control we gave them. A virus with a PR arm hit, people peed their pants and fell all over themselves giving their rights away.

    You expect the ruling class to let go of that?

  4. My guess is that Alaska has the highest per capita spending on healthcare and rank at the bottom of most measures of health. So, obviously, spending more money will improve our health…..this time is different.

  5. I shall not be a “Good German”, I will ignore any and all Mandates and Decrees of the Dictator Dunleavy/Zink!

  6. Has anyone conducted a study as to why people who wear masks still get COVID? The so-called experts who issue unilateral decrees, order the closure of businesses, and churches/ schools, restrict personal movement, mandate behavior for us but not for themselves, and suspend our basic freedoms………scare the hell out of me. These cowards are intent on destroying our great country. And yes, it is political. Almost all of these so-called experts are Trump haters. Another reason why I pay them zero attention.

  7. The name Dunleavy is not German, I believe its probably Scottish or Irish. I’m am tired of all these political hack “experts” and “scientists.” You can pay for all the expertise and science you want with money being your only limitation. All you need to do with these folks is follow the money trail.

  8. SNAP and “food security” …or, more accurately, forcing those who worked and produced something of value to pay for an enhanced lifestyle for those who messed their lives up to the point that they can’t feed themselves.
    Or, maybe, you’re more comfortable with this: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”…the communist motto. Sure sounds nice, people helping people and all that – and all at the point of a government gun!
    If the government program you’re considering involves the government giving something of value to someone who didn’t earn it or pay for it then you’re looking at communism/socialism.
    All welfare is collectivist.
    Most importantly, nowhere in the Constitution does it say that we the people instituted government so that some could pay the way for others by government fiat…it’s unconstitutional and un-American..

  9. When you have this sort of stark difference between the experts and the general public, it’s high time to get a new set of experts who are more in touch with the community they live in and represent.

    Not surprised with the non-profits on board with this, as the ANC Assembly and mayors purchased their support via multiple CARES Act “grants” which can be better described as bribes.

    Might be a good time to contact your favorite legislator, as there are 2 bills making their way thru the system to extend the emergency declaration – HB76/SB56. For his part, Dunleavy is not in support. Cheers –

    Cheers –

  10. I have been in Alaska long enough to have seen the Pipeline Boom, the Commercial Fishing Boom, the State Government Boom, The Exxon Valdez Boom & now the Covid 19 Boom. Of all of them, I believe the Covid Boom is the most odious by far!

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