Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was able to tuck 65 medium-sized to small grants to Alaska communities and nonprofits in the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act that President Joe Biden is expected to sign Tuesday, March 15.
Twelve annual appropriations bills for federal agencies were combined in the bill along with sevaeral billion dollars in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine and other funds to strengthen NATO forces in Europe against Russian aggression. Also included is a pay raise for military personnel and Department of Defense civilian employees along with a boost in housing, and food allowances, and child care.
Murkowski said the 65 projects include $230 million in “Congressionally Designated Spending allocations, what used to be called “Earmarks” that were included specifically for Alaska. Other states were able to take advantage of the opportunity.
While some are criticizing the restoration of the practice, Murkowsi defended them in a press conference Monday, March 14, as a way small communities can press relatively small projects without getting caught in federal agency bureaucracy.
Other provisions were added, for example a restoration of authority for telehealth procedures that were part of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic but were partly terminated in Alaska when Gov. Mike Dunleavy failed to extend a public health emergency declaration.
One of the major parts of the bill is a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a priority for Murkowski as well as Alaska Congressman Don Young for several years. The new act strengthens as well as renewing the federal law that is now three decades old. Included in the designated Alaska appropriations are funds for shelters in several Alaska communities to protect women and families from domestic violence.
Included in this section of the bill is a provision for a five-year pilot program that would allow tribal courts in Alaska to prosecute and weigh domestic violence cases and that include prosecution of non-Natives who commit domestic violence offenses in rural communities. Establishment of the tribal courts would be approved on application to the U.S. Justice Department, and included in criteria for approval is that the due process rights of persons charged can be protected just as in state courts.
In addition, tribal courts would function only in communities, such as small rural villages, where public safety is often lacking due to state trooper limitations and lack of funding for the state’s Village Public Safety Officer of VSOP program.
The provision essentially extends to Alaska a limited tribal court system that has operated successfully among tribes in the Lower 48.
Other provisions include new support for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, that helps families with heating bills and funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The community projects funded include:
• $23 million to the MyHouse Mat-Su Homeless Youth Center to fund the construction of a commercial building to support programs that offer services to homeless youth, which will be known as the Carson Cottle Center. This project would expand MyHouse’s successful job training programs statewide and offer additional space for the programs offered.
• $1 million for MyHouse Mat-Su to support additional programmatic services for clients, including job training, sex trafficking recovery support services, as well as transitional housing wrap-around services.
• $1.5 million to the Mat-Su Food Bank in Wasilla for warehouse renovations and equipment to improve the ability to collect and distribute food to those in need.
• $540,000 to provide the Metlakatla Indian Community with an emergency backup generator.
• $385,000 to implement the Kenai community’s wildfire hazard mitigation plan, which includes addressing spruce bark beetle infestation that can lead to catastrophic wildfire.
• $27.6 million to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to expand the Alaska Native Medical Center Emergency Department.
• $420,000 for Alaska Heat Smart in Juneau to support the installation of air-source heat pumps in lower-income households
• $27.7 million to the City of Kotzebue to support the construction of an access road from Kotzebue to a community port at Cape Blossom
• $1.5 million to the Nome Community Center to provide housing and public health services for chronically homeless individuals through the Housing First Project of Nome
• $10.2 million to expand capacity at Skagway’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has recently experienced capacity difficulties due to increased use
• $2 million for the University of Alaska Fairbanks to support the research, testing, and evaluation of counter unmanned aerial systems in law enforcement operations
• $295,000 to update and expand medical skills workforce labs at UAA
• $840,000 to the Sitka Sound Science Center for renovation of educational facilities used for aquaculture training programs
• $250,000 to Juneau’a Sealaska Heritage Foundationincrease early literacy among Alaska Native children statewide
• $800,000 toward the construction of a new Community Health Clinic in Girdwood
• $8 million for the construction of a new hospital
• $2 million to Southeast Conference to help establish a pilot program for electric ferries.
• $2.08 million to the City & Borough of Wrangell to fund a connection pipe between the Upper Reservoir and the Water Treatment Plant as a means of accessing the upper reservoir’s water
• $3.25 million to replace a failing wastewater lift station
• $1.5 million to provide Emergency Operations Center Grant Program funding to the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor to construct a new tsunami shelter community center
• $5 million for the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, based in Fairbanks, to support efforts to map coastal and nearshore Alaska
• $2.5 million to United Human Services of Southeast Alaska to build a facility that will host multiple organizations providing public health and social services for vulnerable populations, to be known as the Teal Street Center
• $2 million to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to support the development of housing units for essential professionals in rural Alaska
• $5 million for the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to provide programmatic support for victim service organizations statewide
• $750,000 for an Invasive Species Early Detection Rapid Response Strike Team in southcentral Alaska
• $236,000 to Women in Safe Homes (WISH) to support the final stages of construction of the WISH Shelter in Ketchikan
• $500,000 to the University of Alaska Anchorage to launch an Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP) Acceleration Academy at the Bethel campus
• $500,000 for Covenant House Alaska in Anchorage to implement a statewide training program to address youth, child, and family homelessness in Alaska.
• $2 million for the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission to support Alaska fisheries and the adoption of 21st century technology
• $987,000 for the Alaska Research Consortium in Kodiak to develop a refrigeration certificate training program for Alaska seafood processors
• $1 million to United Way of Alaska in Anchorage make improvements to the 2-1-1 emergency communications system.